Seniors and in general older Americans are among the fastest growing demographics of pot users, according to recent studies and research.
The first stat we'll look at is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which shows that from 2002 to 2014, cannabis use among individuals from 55 to 64 years old rose from 1.1 percent of the total population to 6.1 percent. A staggering 455 percent increase in an aging age group. While they are hardly alone (for comparison, usage among 18 to 25 year olds rose 13 percent during the same period)
In a new peer review of relevant research, scientists attempted to understand the reasons behind this new trend and called for more studies on pot use among seniors.
Many think the rise in pot use among older adults is merely due to the already pot-friendly baby boomers getting up there in age. The National Survey of Drug Use and Healh indeed found that people who started using marijuana before age 30 made up half of all those over age 50 who said they had used marijuana recently Aging baby boomers isn't the only factor at play here however.
The University of Iowa College of Public Health recently published that some older people are taking advantage of the newly realized social acceptance of marijuana use and marijuana legalization. The authors noted previous studies that have linked medical pot to an increase in pot use among all ages of adults.
Health and medical issues may also help explain the rise in grandma and grandpas pot usage, the study said. Some older adults are experiencing age-related health problems such as glaucoma, nausea, neurological diseases, neuropathic pain and cancer symptoms, which can be treated with marijuana in states allowing medical marijuana.
“Why do older people start using cannabis? Does marijuana use lead to substance abuse? How are doctors talking to their older patients about cannabis? Should medical marijuana laws be extended to cover age-related medical conditions? Should cannabis be recommended as a substitute for opioids or to treat end-of-life pain? “
At this time these sorts of critical public health policy questions cannot be answered, largely because there is a lack of reliable and representative information being collected about cannabis and older individuals.
Until we see the end of marijuana prohibition and the beginning of what will most likely be countless trials, studying it's effects we can only assume. What is really necessary are national surveys looking at how legal, medical and social changes have affected older adults attitudes and behaviors regarding pot use.