As the stigma that has traditionally followed cannabis continues to dissipate, the plant is being embraced by a wider variety of people than ever before. A new study conducted by University of San Diego School of Medicine researchers and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that cannabis use has continued to increase among older adults suffering from various common health conditions. Researchers found that “61 percent of patients who used cannabis began after age 60.”
The study involved 568 patients over the age of 60 in a survey regarding their cannabis use, which took place over a period of 10 weeks at the Medicine for Seniors Clinic at UC San Diego Health.
The survey revealed that 15 percent of the patients had used cannabis within the past three years, while 50 percent reported that they used the plant regularly for medical purposes.
Of all the symptoms reported by the patients, chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia were the most common reasons for regular cannabis use. Most states that allow medical cannabis have some form of chronic pain, anxiety, and/or insomnia on their qualifying conditions list, so it’s not surprising these were the most-reported conditions among the patients.
Another interesting finding the UC San Diego researchers reported was the commonality among new, older cannabis consumers utilizing the plant for medical purposes rather than recreational use. Additionally, these patients reported that they were more likely to use the plant topically as a lotion or balm, as opposed to smoking, ingesting edibles, or other consumption methods. Older users are also more likely to be honest with their doctors about their cannabis use, which further suggests the stigma surrounding the plant is truly beginning to dissipate among all demographics.
The UC San Diego researchers used their findings to conclude more research and information needs to be made available, especially to older individuals who may be poorly educated about the benefits of cannabis. The study revealed older adults are increasingly using cannabis, and with that comes the need for knowledge on both the benefit and risk that may come with consumption.
As they delve more into their research, the team at UC San Diego wants to compare cannabis to current medications, such as opioids and benzodiazepines. In the long run, it may be beneficial for more older users to turn to cannabis for their health needs instead of pharmaceutical drugs and medications that may have undesirable or dangerous side effects.
The recent rise of non-psychoactive cannabis products containing cannabinoids such as CBD or CBN may have an interesting effect on older users who are trying cannabis for the first time since much of the past stigma surrounded the “high” of cannabis is directly related to the cannabinoid THC. The absence of THC in these products may continue to encourage older users to drop the stigma and give cannabis a try.