Seniors Report Using Cannabis Products to Mitigate Symptoms of Older Age

A recent study published by the Journal of the American Geriatric Society (AGS) finds that seniors are turning to cannabis to mitigate symptoms of aging. 

The study, titled Cannabis: An Emerging Treatment for Common Symptoms in Older Adults, surveyed 568 seniors aged 65 years and older, with 73% being older than 75.  

Overall, 15% reported consuming cannabis in the last three years. Half of those said they use it regularly (either daily or weekly). Almost 80% of them do so for medical reasons, including improving sleep and reducing anxiety. 

Kevin Yang, a third-year medical student at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and an author of the study, noted that 61% of respondents said they initiated  cannabis use at the age of 60 or older. That presented a unique comparison against those who had used it in the past, he explained. 

“New users were more likely to use cannabis for medical reasons than for recreation. The route of cannabis use also differed with new users more likely to use it topically as a lotion rather than by smoking or ingesting as edibles,” Yang told High Times

New users were also more likely to inform their doctor about their cannabis use, likely due to the increased acceptance of the plant amongst the American people. 

Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician in Massachusetts, noted how many older patients are coming in to discuss the pros and cons of medical cannabis in his recent article for Harvard Health

“These patients range from people in their 60s with kidney failure who can no longer take certain pain medications but still need to manage chronic pain, to patients in their 90s, who are looking for a good night’s sleep and are leery of the side effects of traditional sleep medications,” he stated. 

“Some of them — typically “children of the 60s” — are quite comfortable with the idea of using medical marijuana,” he adds. “Others bring it up quietly as if they are asking permission to break the law.”

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws’ (NORML) deputy director Paul Armentano also commented on these findings, noting them to be generally unsurprising. 

“Many seniors struggle with pain, anxiety, restless sleep, and other conditions for which cannabis products may help mitigate,” stated Armentano. “Moreover, 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.” 

In fact, several recent studies have reported that more older adults are using cannabis, and that it is ultimately determined to be safe and effective when used medicinally.

Overall, the AGS study concluded that cannabis use amongst older adults will likely continue to increase due to medical needs, legalization, and shifting attitudes.

Emerald contributor since June 2019

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