MAR 05, 2020 2:30 PM PST

Why Seniors Use Cannabis

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

People over 50 are the fastest-growing group of cannabis users. As journalist Alex Halperin pointed out in The Guardian, “The generation that camped out at Woodstock is now in its seventies.” Seniors likely have a wide variety of personal reasons for integrating cannabis into their lives, or continuing to use it as they age, but some trends are apparent. For many of this age group, cannabis is not an unfamiliar or frightening drug. The removal of restrictions on medical and recreational cannabis also invites more elders to the table. “Legalization seems to make non-users seem a little less scared of it, and perhaps less judgmental,” one 56-year-old cannabis user said.

The cannabis industry is not ignorant of the popularity of cannabis among the older market demographic. Stylish vape pens make the drug more palatable for some and, in California, some dispensaries offer seniors discounts and run shuttle buses to bring them in to shop. 

Some seniors are using cannabis to manage pain and to replace other medicines. And, seniors’ use of marijuana is affecting their use of other drugs, both medicinal and recreational.  A 2016 study found people using Medicare part D (who are usually seniors) in states with medical marijuana were given fewer prescriptions for other drugs for issues like pain, anxiety, depression and chronic ailments. In 2019, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) research revealed Medicare part D recipients’ opioid prescriptions dropped 14% when their state of residence made medical use of cannabis legal. 

Seniors’ intake of other recreational drugs is also affected by cannabis use, in some cases. In 2019, researchers found, following legalization in Washington state, there were significant increases in simultaneous cannabis and alcohol use among people 50 and older. A 2020 study in JAMA also found an increase in cannabis use among older adults who used alcohol between 2015 and 2018. “The risk associated with co-use is higher than the risk of using either alone,” the authors stated. 

 The 2020 JAMA study also found a general increase in marijuana usage by older adults in the U.S. The researchers performed a secondary analysis of close to 15,000 adults aged 65 years and up from the 2015-2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, “a cross-sectional nationally representative survey of noninstitutionalized individuals” in America. They estimated that the proportion of adults reporting past-year cannabis intake increased from 2.4% to 4.2% from 2015 to 2018. This trend follows previous findings that the use of cannabis by adults 65 years and older in this country increased from 0.4% in 2006 and 2007 to 2.9% in 2015 and 2016.

Groups where the increase was more marked included women, people who were white or nonwhite racial/ethnic minorities, people with college education, married adults, those with higher incomes, and those who received mental health treatment or had diabetes. As we noted, people who drank alcohol also reported using more cannabis during this time. Factors like “social desirability” and potentially limited recall abilities of respondents were potential limitations of the study.

Sources:

Science Direct

The Guardian

JAMA, 2019

JAMA, 2020

 

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech, conservation and the arts. She enjoys solutions journalism. Find more of her work at jtravers.journoportfolio.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 04, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
DEC 04, 2019
Is Cannabis Helping America Sleep?
Researchers find cannabis is being used as a sleep-aid in Colorado. Many Americans struggle with sleep disturbances -- s ...
JAN 06, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
JAN 06, 2020
Psychedelics Linked to Stronger Connection to Nature
Taking psychedelic drugs, sometimes referred to as “tripping,” was recently shown to increase individuals&rs ...
FEB 12, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
FEB 12, 2020
Smoking Marijuana Leads to False Memory Formation
Smoking marijuana is known to make people forgetful. Now however, research has shown that smoking the substance may also ...
FEB 25, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
FEB 25, 2020
State to State: Reciprocity for Marijuana Cards Proves Challenging
When a person receives a medical marijuana card, are they good to go, anywhere in the U.S.? No -- it turns out, it can b ...
APR 01, 2020
Health & Medicine
APR 01, 2020
Saliva Test can Measure THC Levels in Impaired Drivers
Now that cannabis products are legal in many states across the U.S., law officials need a quick and reliable way to test ...
APR 03, 2020
Health & Medicine
APR 03, 2020
Cannabis Could Have Adverse Effects on Fertility
New research proves that female eggs exposed to THC may affect their ability to produce embryos that will result in a vi ...
Loading Comments...