DEC 18, 2023 5:00 AM PST

Study Explores Increased Cannabis Use Among Senior Populations

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

Cannabis use among older Americans is now higher than pre-pandemic consumption levels. The report attributed nationwide increases in older adult cannabis consumption to several factors, including pandemic-related stressors, increased cannabis legalization, and dispensary access. The new findings published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research highlight a need for increased public health awareness and preventative health screening services for older adults. Older cannabis users may be at increased risk for cannabis use disorder or other mental or physical adverse effects. 

The study analyzed data from the National Poll on Healthy Aging collected from 2,023 participants aged 50-80 in January 2021. This period was nine months after the implementation of pandemic restrictions and during the initial phase of COVID-19 vaccine administration to high-risk individuals. The study found that 12% of participants reported consuming a THC product in the past year. About 4% claimed that they used THC products several times a week.

Other factors also increase cannabis risks for senior patients. Older adults who reported being unemployed, unmarried, not in an intimate relationship, and used alcohol were more likely to admit cannabis use. 

Participants who drink alcohol excessively tend to use cannabis more regularly. One finding suggested that participants with significant alcohol use that caused physical and psychological harm were nearly eight times as likely to say they had used cannabis extensively in the past year. Participants with lower-risk alcohol consumption patterns were more than twice as likely to say they had consumed cannabis in the past year.

Increased cannabis consumption among older adults and their healthcare providers must consider adverse interactions with other medications, driving precautions, and interference with memory and coordination.  

Physicians, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists can provide medication interaction advice. They can help older adults avoid mixing cannabis with medications for insomnia, depression, anxiety, and seizures that may have undesirable effects.

Sources: Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, Eureka News Alert, National Poll on Healthy Aging 


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
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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