Nav: Home

Cannabis use among older adults rising rapidly

May 30, 2019

AURORA, Colo. (May 30, 2019) - Cannabis use among older adults is growing faster than any other age group but many report barriers to getting medical marijuana, a lack of communication with their doctors and a lingering stigma attached to the drug, according to researchers.

The study, the first to look at how older Americans use cannabis and the outcomes they experience, was published this month in the journal Drugs & Aging.

"Older Americans are using cannabis for a lot of different reasons," said study co-author Hillary Lum, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "Some use it to manage pain while others use it for depression or anxiety."

The 2016 National Survey of Drug Use and Health showed a ten-fold increase in cannabis use among adults over age 65.

The researchers set out to understand how older people perceived cannabis, how they used it and the positive and negative outcomes associated with it.

They conducted 17 focus groups in in senior centers, health clinics and cannabis dispensaries in 13 Colorado counties that included more than 136 people over the age of 60. Some were cannabis users, others were not.

"We identified five major themes," Lum said.

These included: A lack of research and education about cannabis; A lack of provider communication about cannabis; A lack of access to medical cannabis; A lack of outcome information about cannabis use; A reluctance to discuss cannabis use.

Researchers found a general reluctance among some to ask their doctors for a red card to obtain medical marijuana. Instead, they chose to pay more for recreational cannabis.

Lum said this could be driven by feeling self-conscious about asking a doctor for cannabis. That, she said, points to a failure of communication between health care providers and their patients.

"I think [doctors can] be a lot more open to learning about it and discussing it with their patients," said one focus group respondent. "Because at this point I have told my primary care I was using it on my shoulder. And that was the end of the conversation. He didn't want to know why, he didn't want to know about effects, didn't want to know about side effects, didn't want to know anything."

Some said their doctors were unable or unwilling to provide a certificate, the document needed to obtain medical marijuana. They also said physicians need to educate themselves on the latest cannabis research.

Some older users reported positive outcomes when using cannabis for pain as opposed to taking highly addictive prescription opioids. They often differentiated between using cannabis for medical reasons and using it recreationally.

"Although study participants discussed recreational cannabis more negatively than medical cannabis, they felt it was more comparable to drinking alcohol, often asserting a preference for recreational cannabis over the negative effects of alcohol," the study said.

The researchers also found that despite the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and other states, some older people still felt a stigma attached to it.

"Some participants, for example, referred to the movie `Reefer Madness' (1936) and other anti-marijuana propaganda adverts that negatively framed cannabis as immoral and illegal," the researchers said.

The study adds to the growing literature on the diversity of marijuana use patterns in older adults, said co-author Sara Honn Qualls, PhD, ABPP, professor of psychology and director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

"Older adults who use marijuana are ingesting it in a variety of ways for multiple purposes," she said. "This and other papers from the same project show growing acceptance of marijuana use for medical purposes by older adults, and a clear desire to have their primary health providers involved in educating them about options and risks.

Lum agreed.

She said Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, provides a unique laboratory to gauge public attitudes toward cannabis.

"From a physician's standpoint this study shows the need to talk to patients in a non-judgmental way about cannabis," she said. "Doctors should also educate themselves about the risks and benefits of cannabis and be able to communicate that effectively to patients."
-end-
The study co-authors include: Julie Bobitt; Melissa Schuchman; Robert Wickersham; Kanika Arora; Gary Milavetz and Brian Kaskie.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Related Cannabis Articles:

Pregnant women with depression are more than 3 times more likely to use cannabis
Cannabis use is much more common among pregnant women with depression and pregnant women with depression are more than 3 times more likely to use cannabis than those without depression.
Cannabis compound acts as an antibiotic 
Public health agencies worldwide have identified antibiotic resistance of disease-causing bacteria as one of humanity's most critical challenges.
Cannabis use during pregnancy
The large health care system Kaiser Permanente Northern California provides universal screening for prenatal cannabis use in women during pregnancy by self-report and urine toxicology testing.
Questions and answers about cannabis use during pregnancy
A new study shows that women have many medical questions about the use of cannabis both before and during pregnancy, and during the postpartum period while breastfeeding.
Managing cannabis use in breastfeeding women
As more states legalize medicinal and recreational cannabis use and increasingly decriminalize cannabis, the risk to the growth and development of breastfeeding infants whose mothers use cannabis becomes a growing public health concern.
Cannabis edibles present novel health risks
With the recent legalization of cannabis edibles in Canada, physicians and the public must be aware of the novel risks of cannabis edibles, argue authors in a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Compliance with ID rules in recreational cannabis stores
A new study finds that recreational cannabis stores in Colorado and Washington state, both of which legalized adult recreational use in 2012, show high levels of compliance with rules preventing underage purchase of cannabis.
Study reveals increased cannabis use in individuals with depression
New findings published in Addiction reveal the prevalence of cannabis, or marijuana, use in the United States increased from 2005 to 2017 among persons with and without depression and was approximately twice as common among those with depression in 2017.
Cannabis reduces headache and migraine pain by nearly half
Inhaled cannabis reduces self-reported headache severity by 47.3% and migraine severity by 49.6%, according to a recent study by Washington State University researchers published in the Journal of Pain.
Cannabis found not to be a substitute for opioids
The research team looked at all research on the effects of cannabis use on illicit opioid use during methadone maintenance therapy, which is a common treatment for opioid use disorder, and found six studies involving more than 3,600 participants.
More Cannabis News and Cannabis Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.