Cannabis use is becoming more prevalent among middle-aged adults and seniors. In the American state of Colorado where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2014, adults over the age of 65 are one of the fastest growing demographics of cannabis consumers.

Despite the fact that many doctors are still hesitant to prescribe it, seniors are taking it upon themselves to self-treat. It is believed that marijuana’s advances as a credible medical treatment have significantly contributed to the recent spike in usage among seniors.

MORE SENIORS ARE USING MARIJUANA

A 2018 study from NYU indicated that more middle and senior-aged Americans were regularly using cannabis. According to data collected from 2015–2016, 9% of those aged 50–64, and 3% of those 65 and over had used marijuana in the past year.

The “baby boomer” generation that makes up much of the senior population was already exposed to recreational marijuana in the ‘60s and ‘70s. As such, experts believe that they may be more comfortable using cannabis than seniors were in the past. The same NYU study also found that nearly 93% of those aged 50–64 who used marijuana had first tried it before the age of 21. Researchers believe that some of these people may have continued to regularly or occasionally smoke marijuana throughout their lives and into senior age.

SENIORS ARE TRYING MARIJUANA FOR THE FIRST TIME

When Canada legalized recreational cannabis in 2018, many expected youth marijuana use to rise as a consequence. However, statistics indicate that the opposite is actually happening. According to a recent survey from StatsCan, half of the Canadians who experienced marijuana for the first time in 2019 were over the age of 45. Additionally, the number of first-time cannabis users nearly doubled from 2018 to 2019.

MEDICAL CANNABIS

Many seniors are using cannabis for medical purposes. Clinics and doctor’s offices have seen a rise in older patients seeking a prescription for, or information about, marijuana. Medical marijuana has been clinically proven to help treat a wide array of conditions ranging from neuropathic pain to anxiety disorders. As the general awareness of medical marijuana has grown, more seniors have come to consider it as a possible treatment option.

However, experts are warning that most seniors are not properly educated on modern marijuana. Many are recommended cannabis by a friend or acquaintance and lack the necessary information to properly navigate the complex modern cannabis market.

Doctors also warn that not enough research has been conducted into cannabis use by seniors, and safety is still a concern. As such, many doctors are not sure exactly what to expect or how to proceed with senior patients.

POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS

Medical experts also warn of some potentially adverse side effects for seniors. For instance, since the aging brain is more susceptible to psychotropic drugs, seniors are urged to be careful when using THC. As such, some doctors are recommending seniors try cannabis strains that are high in CBD, not THC. These strains are recommended for their ability to deliver pain relief without euphoria or impairment.

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Moreover, patients suffering from certain underlying medical conditions or taking certain medications are advised to avoid medical marijuana. For instance, patients suffering from lung or pulmonary disease should avoid smoking altogether. Meanwhile, experts warn that marijuana can interfere with blood thinners, and patients taking them should likewise avoid marijuana. Conversely, some research suggests medical cannabis may actually be beneficial in lowering blood pressure and balancing cholesterol, two major issues affecting the aging population.

Additionally, the numbers indicate that many seniors who are open to using cannabis also consume alcohol. Medical experts warn that combining the two can lead to impaired cognitive and motor function, which can be especially troublesome for seniors who are susceptible to slips and falls.

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