The over-60 crowd has taken the lead as the fastest-growing group of cannabis users in the country. As legalization spreads and the stigma around marijuana fades, many older people are seeking it out as a cure for what ails them.
And it’s no surprise. As older adults reach retirement age, they bypass drug testing, have more time on their hands, and often feel liberated to experiment.
As the market has evolved to include discreet options like edibles, oils, and attractive vapes, more and more former skeptics have become curious and emboldened.
This includes many who may be returning to cannabis after a long hiatus. After all, the hippies of Woodstock are now mostly in their 70s. Others feel freer to explore as cultural attitudes towards marijuana evolve and more people are educated about its benefits.
According to a University of Colorado study, cannabis use among US seniors has increased tenfold in the past ten years. Almost 4 percent of Americans 65 or older used cannabis in the past year, an exponential increase from 0.3 percent in 2007, according to data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. In 2017, almost 10 percent of those aged 60 to 64 reported using cannabis in the past year, up from 1.9% from the ten years prior.
The research team surveyed 136 residents at Colorado senior centers, health clinics and dispensaries in 2017. Unfortunately, many participants reported difficulties in accessing medical marijuana and said that their doctors were often ill informed or unwilling to prescribe cannabis. Some reported being hesitant to request medical marijuana for treatment of pain and other issues because of their lingering concerns about the stigma.
But as cannabis gains traction as a safe remedy for many age-related ailments, more and more doctors, dispensaries and advocacy groups are marketing specifically to seniors. Age-related diseases like Parkinson’s, dementia, osteoarthritis, pain and chronic inflammation respond incredibly well to CBD, THC’s non-psychoactive sister.
Because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, research on CBD’s efficacy, dosing, and possible interactions with other drugs is limited. However, in February a large, peer-reviewed study in Israel demonstrated that cannabis can be safe and effective for seniors, and lead to reduced dependency on potentially harmful pharmaceuticals. The study found that almost 94 percent of patients reported improvements and that their pain levels had been cut in half.
Although that study was by far the largest and first of its kind, earlier research supports its findings. A 2016 study discovered that seniors in states that had legalized medical marijuana received fewer prescriptions for drugs to treat issues like depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.
Indeed, more and more senior center buses head to dispensaries to be educated by budtenders on everything from insomnia relief to pain management. Finding a supportive and informative environment certainly helps seniors take the leap, demystifying the science and making cannabis more approachable.
We are glad to see that more and more people are able to access effective medicines for their ailments, and find a higher quality of life in the process!
If you want more information on Item 9 Labs’ educational offerings for seniors, reach out today. We’d love to hear from you!
Christina Rock is a Seattle-based writer and photographer. Find her here.