APR 08, 2022 6:50 AM PDT

Baby Boomers and Cannabis Use

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

As the population of older adults grows and more states legalize cannabis, rates for baby boomers seeking substance abuse treatment dramatically rose. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the rate of people seeking treatment increased from 8.8 per 1,000 people in 2000 to 15.1 per 1,000 in 2017. The UConn researchers analyzed data from the nationwide Treatment Episode Dataset made available from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The researchers noted generational differences in the numbers of people seeking substance abuse treatment. The sharp increase of baby boomers reporting cannabis use disorder (CUD) contrasts with the stable rates of younger adults seeking treatment. People sought treatment for various substances, but baby boomer cannabis and cocaine use comprised most of the cases. This age group also experienced an increased rate of treatment for heroin and synthetic opioids, but alcohol-related treatment rates remained consistent. 

Older adults use cannabis for many reasons, including recreational enjoyment and treating various health conditions. Older adults tend to use cannabis to alleviate pain, insomnia, inflammation, and anxiety.  A study published in the Journal of American Geriatric Society found that most individuals initiating cannabis use after the age of 60 were using cannabis for medicinal purposes. Researchers hypothesize that substance abuse has become less stigmatized, and as a result older adults may be more likely to seek help. SAMHSA data indicates that self-referrals for treatment account for a significant number of adults entering substance treatment. This trend suggests a healthy awareness to recognize when an intervention is needed. 

Sources: 

Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Journal of American Geriatric SocietyUConn Today

 

About the Author
BA and MA in English, MPS in Human Relations, and Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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