New research has revealed that 80 percent of older Americans support using medical marijuana on a doctor’s recommendation.
While only six percent of people aged 50 to 80 have used medical marijuana, the National Poll on Healthy Aging has found that the majority of people in that age group are open to trying it.
The most common use of medical marijuana is treating pain conditions, which affect an estimated three-quarters of Americans over the age of 65.
Unlike the prescription pain medications typically used to treat these conditions, marijuana is not habit-forming and has virtually no risk of overdose.
Changing attitudes toward marijuana for medical use could lead to a deviation from the prescription pain medications fueling the country’s opioid epidemic.
Four in five adults support marijuana for medical use, according to a poll of more than 2,000 Americans between ages 50 and 80. An older women is pictured at a marijuana dispensary in Colorado, one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 2000
‘With medical marijuana already legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and other states considering legalizing this use or all use, this is an issue of interest to patients, providers and policymakers alike,’ Preeti Malani, director of the poll, said.
Medical marijuana is used for to treat of a variety of conditions including cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, migraines, arthritis and others.
The poll conducted by the University of Michigan examined attitudes toward medical marijuana among more than 2,000 adults between 50 and 80 years old.
It found that two-thirds of older adults believe marijuana provides pain relief but only 14 percent think marijuana is more effective than prescription pain medication and 38 percent think the two are equally effective.
Close to half of the people polled said they thought prescription pain medicines are more addictive than marijuana, and 57 percent said that such medicines have more side effects than marijuana.
Recent studies have shown that states with easy access to medical marijuana have significantly lower rates of opiate prescriptions such as hydrocodone and oxycondone.
The researchers were surprised to find that 70 percent of respondents said they would ask their doctor about medical marijuana if they had a serious medical condition.
Malani said the findings underscore the importance of providers being ready to answer questions about medical marijuana especially in states where it’s legal.
‘Although older adults may be a bit wary about marijuana, the majority support more research on it,’ Alison Bryant, senior vice president of research for AARP, said.
‘This openness to more research likely speaks to a desire to find safe, alternative treatments to control pain.’
Two-thirds of the respondents said they thought the government should be doing more to study the health effects of the drug.
These findings open the door for more studies involving older participants, of which there are currently very few.