Cannabis Use Among Older Adults: Study Reveals Concerns
A new study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse has revealed that while many older adults are using cannabis to self-treat different conditions without first seeking medical input, healthcare professionals should engage them in discussions about cannabis use.
At first, the idea was that medical cannabis users have more risk of physical and mental health problems, use cannabis more frequently, and discuss cannabis use with healthcare professionals than non-medical users. In an attempt to prove this was the case, researchers checked 17,685 people using data from the 2018 and 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Through this study, the researchers found that past-year cannabis use was 8.9 percent, 18.5 percent of the people who’d reported using cannabis medically. This medical use was to treat various conditions, including but not limited to chronic pain, arthritis, and depression.
Medical use was connected with a lower likelihood of alcohol use disorder. However, these individuals have a greater chance of talking about drug use with healthcare professionals, which was four times as high as recreational cannabis consumers. They were also more likely to buy their cannabis from a dispensary.
Approximately 20 percent of the people using cannabis for health reasons purchase it from medical cannabis dispensaries. Only five percent of recreational cannabis users buy from dispensaries. Thus, older adults are still purchasing their cannabis and related products from the black market.
From 2008 to 2019, cannabis use by older adults in the U.S. grew by more than 100%. This includes utilizing it for pain relief and treating health issues. The authors of the study suggest that these new revelations “have significant clinical and policy implications, especially as more U.S. states are legalizing cannabis, which is leading to a rapid rise in uptake among older people.”
According to the study, “medical and non-medical users did not differ on physical and most behavioral health indicators.” However, “some medical users are likely to self-treat without healthcare professional consultation.” With this in mind, they recommend that these professionals speak with older adults about cannabis use and behavioral health essentials.
The suggested engagement should include routine screens for older people for cannabis and other substances. This would also involve checking users for mental health issues and recommending treatment when applicable.