Evidence keeps pouring in showing more seniors than ever recorded are flocking to marijuana, mostly for medical reasons. The study comes from researchers at the University of California at San Diego who are reporting that 15 percent of the seniors they surveyed had used a cannabis product in the last three years.
The researchers surveyed 568 respondents at a geriatric clinic in southern California, and published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society. Each participant is at least 65-years-old, with 73 percent older than 75. The 15 percent that admitted cannabis use overwhelmingly said they used it to reduce pain, improve sleep, and lessen anxiety. More than half said they only began using cannabis as older adults, and most admitted they hadn’t talked with a doctor about their use.
The findings mirror other research on seniors and cannabis. Scientists at the Universities of Iowa and Illinois surveyed seniors and found that many were using cannabis as medicine for a variety of reasons. While Spanish and Brazilian investigators found no decline in cognition patterns, psychiatric disorders, or quality of life in patients self-medicating with marijuana for chronic diseases, like HIV, epilepsy, and fibromyalgia. And Israeli researchers found cannabis to be a safe way to fight chronic pain for those over 65 years of age, with 93% of respondents reporting an improvement in their conditions after using marijuana for pain.
“It is not surprising that a rising percentage of seniors consider cannabis to be a viable therapeutic option in their later years,” Paul Armentano, the deputy director of advocacy group NORML, said. “Many seniors are well aware of the litany of serious adverse side effects associated with available prescription drugs, like opioids or sleep aids, and they perceive medical cannabis to be a practical and potentially safer alternative.”
A growing number of organizations are now suggesting cannabis use for pain and anxiety among senior adults. AARP (which was formerly known as the American Association for Retired Persons) supports “the medical use of marijuana for older adults in states that have legalized it,” which they say is a conclusion based on the most recent research.
Marijuana is “a relatively safe drug,” according to the World Health Organization.
As with all cannabis products, if you’re a curious senior, start with a low dosage and slowly move to a higher dosage til you find what works for you (and each person is impacted differently). There are many ways to ingest cannabis these days without smoking it, which isn’t recommended for people with a history of lung disease. If it doesn’t do anything, stop using it.
The authors of the new University of California at San Diego study conclude marijuana use by older adults is only likely to increase.
“Our study has augmented what is known about cannabis use in older adults by identifying distinct patterns and characteristics of cannabis use among them,” they wrote, “with older adult cannabis users using cannabis primarily for medical reasons and to treat specific conditions.”