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19 June, 2024
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More seniors turning to marijuana to ease ailments

As seniors increasingly turn to cannabis for health reasons, concerns arise about potential risks and delayed effects.


As marijuana gains acceptance and legalization across the United States, a growing number of seniors, including Vietnam veteran Bill Martin, are turning to cannabis to address health issues. Martin, 76, started using marijuana again five years ago for medicinal purposes, particularly to aid with sleeping issues.

While more than a third of people aged 65 and older have tried marijuana at least once, only 5% reported using it in the last month, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Experts suggest that seniors are using cannabis to manage pain and insomnia, with some opting for it over opioids. The baby boomer generation, now reaching retirement age, also contributes to the rise in senior marijuana use.

Although legalization has increased access, experts caution seniors about potential negative interactions with prescription medications and the delayed effects of edibles, which are more commonly consumed by older adults. Seniors are advised to educate themselves, be aware of risks, and start with low-dose options like edibles. Dispensaries offering senior discounts and products tailored for seniors, such as pre-rolled joints with lower THC levels, are part of the industry's response to the aging demographic.

Joseph Friedman, a pharmacist and founder of a former dispensary, emphasized the importance of educating seniors about potential interactions with medications and the need to start with low doses. While research on the health effects of cannabis on seniors is still in its early stages, the lifting of federal bans on cannabis research is expected to facilitate more comprehensive studies.

Emergency room visits related to cannabis impairment among seniors have surged in the last decade, especially concerning edible forms of marijuana. Delays in the effects of edibles, which can take up to an hour, may catch older users off guard. Dr. Alison Moore, co-author of a study on emergency room visits by older cannabis users, highlighted the evolving nature of marijuana's impact on seniors. While cannabis may have made individuals feel good in their youth, it could lead to paranoia in older age. Furthermore, seniors face a risk of substance use disorder, with approximately 1 in 5 older users becoming addicted to marijuana. Researchers acknowledge that comprehensive studies on the health effects of cannabis on older adults are just beginning due to past federal bans on cannabis research, recently lifted.

[Information sourced from The Chicago Sun Times]

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