FEB 25, 2020 6:36 PM PST

Marijuana Use Among Seniors Over 65 Skyrockets

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Following its legalization, cannabis and its products have become increasingly popular- and not just among young people. Researchers from New York University have found that the drug is also increasing in popularity among those aged 65 and over- and in some cases, at an alarming rate.. 

For their study, the researchers analyzed survey responses between 2015 and 2018 from 14, 896 people via the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Theythen stratified these individuals according to thier sex, race/ ethicity, educational attainment, household income and marital status among other factors, and ascertained their usage of cannabis by inquiring about how they consumed marijuana, hashish, pot, grass and hash oil. Then, after collecting their results, using logistic regression, they calculated both absolute and relative change in cannabis usage between 2015 and 2018, as well as whether there were any changes across subgroups. 

All in all, the researchers found that adults aged 65 and above experienced a 75% increase in cannabis usage- from just 2.4% of the age group using the substance in 2015, to 4.2% in 2018. In particular, the researchers highlighted that women, people with a college education and married individuals, among other demographics, tended to have higher rates of cannabis use than others. 

Moreover, the researchers found that among participants with diabetes, cannabis usage skyrocketed by 180% during the period. Meanwhile, those receiving mental health treatment saw their average use increase by 157.1%, with those reporting to have one or less chronic illness having seen their average usage increase by 95.8%.

Dr. Benjamin Han, a co-author of the paper, said, “I was curious to see if it was people who are more sick, with say, multiple chronic conditions, trying cannabis, or is it the healthier people, perhaps with only one health condition...And it appears it's the healthier older people who are trying cannabis more."

Although it is unclear why cases of marijuana usage increased as much as they did for those with diabetes for example, the researchers also found an increase in cannabis use among seniors who consume alcohol. While in 2015 just 2.9% of older adults reported both alcohol and cannabis usage, by 2018, this figure had jumped to 6.3%. Han said, “As a geriatrician, I worry about any kind of prescribed medicine or substance use -- anything that has any kind of psychoactive effects...I worry about things like dizziness, falls. I worry how it may interact with certain medical conditions."

 

Sources: CNN, JAMA Network and Complex 

 

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
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