A new study published this week takes a look at data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health regarding cannabis use among those aged 65 years and older. The study seems to confirm something we have known for several years – namely, that more seniors are using marijuana.
While only 0.4% of seniors admitted to using cannabis in 2006, 2.4% said they were cannabis users in 2015, and in 2018 that number had climbed to 4.2%. Of course, some of this increase can be attributed to seniors being more open about cannabis use now that legal consequences are lessening, but there is little doubt that more seniors are using cannabis than ever before.
The combination of lessening consequences and stigma combined with the wealth of information available about the medicinal properties of cannabis has led many seniors to question what they thought they knew about this amazing plant.
Naturally, some are sounding the alarm about this trend of more seniors using cannabis. Apparently the use of cannabis with alcohol is up among seniors, and there are reasonable worries about how cannabis might interact with the mountain of prescription medications many seniors take.
Some also seem to be worried about seniors who have been away from the weed game for too long. “Weed has been getting stronger over the past few decades,” said study co-author Joseph Palamar, an associate professor of population health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, “and a lot of these seniors don’t take dosing seriously, especially edibles. They think ‘What’s the big deal? I used to do this when I was a kid.’”
While we certainly need to be worried about how cannabis may interact with certain other meds, we must also remember that seniors take a lot of other meds. They have many ailments, ailments from which cannabis could bring them great relief. Maybe marijuana use could help them leave behind more dangerous drugs; at the very least, it is much more benign that many of the prescriptions seniors currently take.
In the end, if someone finds relief from cannabis, it’s no one else’s business. But for seniors – who generally have more ailments and less time left than younger folks – the need can be more imperative. If someone over 65 discovers that cannabis improves their quality of life, good for them. We need to do all we can to make their access to cannabis as easy as possible.