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More Older Adults Are Using Cannabis Products For Medical Problems

What a change from a few decades ago when marijuana use was totally illegal, frowned upon, and viewed as a "gateway drug"! A recent study found that about 15% of older adults reported using cannabis in the past 3 years. Most adults (78%) reported they used it only it to treat medical problems such as pain or arthritis (73%), sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression.

University of California researchers conducted anonymous surveys of 568 older adults aged 65 years and older at a geriatrics clinic in California. They found that adults using cannabis for the first time after the age of 60  were more likely to apply it topically as a lotion, and not by smoking it or ingesting it as edibles. Three fourths said the products helped them.

A minority used it for recreational purposes by smoking or eating edibles. About half (53%) of cannabis users reported using cannabis regularly on a daily or weekly basis. The researchers pointed out that other surveys at geriatric clinics also showed increased cannabis use in recent years.

From Science Daily: Older adults using cannabis to treat common health conditions

With growing interest in its potential health benefits and new legislation favoring legalization in more states, cannabis use is becoming more common among older adults. 

University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers report that older adults use cannabis primarily for medical purposes to treat a variety of common health conditions, including pain, sleep disturbances and psychiatric conditions like anxiety and depression.

The study, published online October 7, 2020 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that of 568 patients surveyed, 15 percent had used cannabis within the past three years, with half of users reporting using it regularly and mostly for medical purposes.

"Pain, insomnia and anxiety were the most common reasons for cannabis use and, for the most part, patients reported that cannabis was helping to address these issues, especially with insomnia and pain," said Christopher Kaufmann, PhD, co-first author of the study and assistant professor in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego.

Patients surveyed in the study were seen at the Medicine for Seniors Clinic at UC San Diego Health over a period of 10 weeks.

The researchers also found that 61 percent of the patients who used cannabis had initiated use after age 60.

"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. Also, they were more likely to inform their doctor about their cannabis use, which reflects that cannabis use is no longer as stigmatized as it was previously."

Given the rise in availability of CBD-only products, which is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in contrast to THC-containing products, the researchers said it is likely that future surveys will continue to document a larger proportion of older adults using cannabis or cannabis-based products for the first time.

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