The wave of marijuana legalization sweeping across the U.S. has spiked demand for the drug in every age group … including seniors, new research shows. Use of marijuana and other cannabis-based products among Americans 65 and older increased by 75% between 2015 and 2018, to about 4.2% of older adults, according to the most recent U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Researchers from New York University surveyed a sample of more than 15,000 older adults. They found that marijuana use rose most sharply among specific groups of seniors over the three-year period. Some highlights of their findings included;
• The increase in users was larger among older women [93%] than men [58%], although nearly twice as many men use marijuana compared with women overall.
• The increase was far larger among college-educated seniors [114%] compared to those who completed high school or less [17%].
• The increase in married seniors’ marijuana use was more than double that of single older adults [100% vs. 45%].
The survey also showed that marijuana use increased far more among seniors with one or fewer chronic health problems [96%] than those with two or more chronic conditions [29%].
Higher-income seniors were more likely to have used marijuana as well, as were those who said they were being treated for mental health issues.
Joseph Palamar, Ph.D., an associate professor of population health at NYU Langone Medical Center, said he thinks the proportion of aging marijuana users is increasing because more older people are already familiar with it, and are trying it again now because of the potential medical benefits. “Of course, there are new initiates, but I don’t think there are that many older people trying [marijuana] for the first time ever,” Palamar said.
He added that a main concern regarding cannabis use among older adults is that marijuana has become more powerful over the years – and because their aging bodies are vulnerable to potential adverse effects from cannabis, there is an urgent need to better understand both the benefits and risks of marijuana use by seniors.