Since the legalization of cannabis in many states for medical and recreational purposes, there has been an increased number of users. One particular group of users is adults of 65 years and older. According to a JAMA study, the number of 65 years plus adults who use marijuana increased from 2.4% in 2015 to 4.2% in 2018.
Do you think it is unusual to see an elderly couple’s house wafting the aromas of baking cookies mixed with the smell of marijuana? Unexpected maybe, however, data shows that many seniors either smoke or take the edibles. This is according to the same research by JAMA.
Most of these U.S. seniors take marijuana because it helps them sleep better for the insomniacs, ease their pain, for those with chronic pain from certain medical conditions.
“I am an absolute chronic insomniac. I have been ever since I was a little tiny child — it just drives me crazy,” says one senior. “I take this little cube, and it just makes me drowsy so that I can sleep, and it doesn’t leave me groggy in the morning.”
For pain Relief, this senior uses a topical cream that has both THC and CBD. THC is the compound in the plant that gives the high, while CBD is the compound in the plant used in medical marijuana. These two compounds work together as a great pain relief substance.
The topical creams and pills with THC are not available in all states, but only those that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
“I find it fascinating that people who would never touch an illegal drug are now trying to get it, even if it’s just for medical purposes,” said study co-author Joseph Palamar, an associate professor of population health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
“What I’m seeing in my clinic is many older adults who are very curious about cannabis. They want to use it to treat this or that chronic disease and symptoms,” said Dr. Benjamin Han, an assistant professor of geriatric medicine and palliative care at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, another co-author of the paper.
Over the past ten years, Palamar and Han have research and published various papers that estimated marijuana use by American seniors. The study was derived from data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This was a nationally representative research done on 15000 people in the U.S. who don’t live in a nursing home or institution of some sort.
Back in 2006, only 0.4% of seniors over the age of 65 reported using cannabis products. But the number had doubled to 2.4% by 2018
“Marijuana use among seniors is not bouncing up and down like with other drugs,” Palamar said. “It’s a straight line up.”
The use of marijuana among the adults aged 65 years and above was highest among women, racial or ethnic minorities, and seniors who were married, college-educated, had mental health issues and had incomes of $20,000 to $49,000 and $75,000 or higher.
Why are seniors rapidly transitioning to medical cannabis? Many patients feel that the risks associated with opioid medications are too high from an overdose to potential addiction and increased pain receptor sensitivity. Medical cannabis in the senior segment is being used predominantly to help relieve pain and inflammation.