Double the number of US seniors use pot as did five years ago, study finds

The rise of marijuana among boomers: Twice as many US seniors use pot as did five years ago, study finds

  • In 2015, 2.4% of adults aged 65 and older used pot compared to 4.2% in 2018
  • Use among older women saw a 93% increase from 1.5% who used in 2015 compared to 2.9% in 2018 
  • Significant increases were also seen among those with a college education, diabetics and people receiving mental health treatment 

Nearly twice as many American seniors use marijuana as did five years ago, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that about 4.2 percent of adults in the US aged 65 and older smoked cannabis in 2018.

That’s up from the 2.4 percent that did so in 2015. 

Past studies have suggested that older adults have turned to pot to treat a variety of illnesses, such as pain or anxiety, but the team, from New York University School of Medicine says that these patients are ‘especially vulnerable to potential adverse effects from cannabis.’ 

Such side effects include dizziness, headache, nausea, and paranoid thinking – and even increasing the risk of stroke or hard-to-control blood sugar levels among diabetics. 

A new study from New York University School of Medicine found that, in 2015, 2.4% of adults aged 65 and older used pot compared to 4.2% in 2018 (file image)

For the the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the team analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2018. 

Researchers looked at responses from close to 15,000 people who were 65 years old and older.

Among older men and women of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds, the prevalence of senior citizens using cannabis increased 2.4 percent to 4.2 percent over a four-year period.      

The most significant increases were seen among women, people with a college education and individuals making $75,000 per year or more.

Among older women, 1.5 percent used marijuana in 2015 compared to 2.9 percent in 2018 – a 93 percent spike.

Use among those with a college education more than doubled over the study period, increasing from 2.9 percent to 6.2 percent.

Those making at least $75,000 per year also used more marijuana with only 2.4 percent doing so in 2015 compared to 5.5 percent in 2018.

Researchers also found notable increases among those with chronic diseases, particularly diabetes, and people receiving mental health treatment.

Use among diabetic senior citizens nearly tripled with one percent using marijuana in 2015 and increasing to 2.8 percent in 2018.    

Among those getting mental health treatment, use of the drug saw a jump from 2.8 percent to 7.2 percent – a spike of more than 157 percent.

The findings of this study mirror of those from a University of Colorado study in 2019 that saw a ten-fold increase of older adults using pot in 2017 compared to 2007.

Over the last several years, researchers have said that as more states legalize medical and recreational weed, the number of older Americans using the drug is expected to increase.

Recreational marijuana use is legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia, while medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.    

But scientific research has not confirmed that marijuana can treat chronic conditions such as anxiety, pain and depression – even as older adults turn to it more and more. 

‘While more older adults use cannabis, the current clinical evidence to support its use in this population is limited,’ the authors of the new study write.

‘Older adults are especially vulnerable to potential adverse effects from cannabis, and with their increase in cannabis use, there is an urgent need to better understand both the benefits and risks of cannabis use in this population.