*According to research published Monday in JAMA, marijuana use is rising among American seniors over age 65.
“I find it fascinating that people who would never touch an illegal drug are now trying to get it, even if it’s just for medical purposes,” said study co-author Joseph Palamar, an associate professor of population health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, per CNN.
“What I’m seeing in my clinic are a lot of older adults who are very curious about cannabis to treat this or that chronic disease and symptoms,” said co-author Dr. Benjamin Han, an assistant professor of geriatric medicine and palliative care at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
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Over the last decade, Palamar and Han have published several papers estimating marijuana use by American seniors. To do so they analyze data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative survey of 15,000 people in the US who do not live in an institution, such as a nursing home.
In 2006, only 0.4% of seniors over 65 reported using marijuana products in the past year, they said. The newly published study found that by 2015, the number had doubled to 2.4%. By 2018, it had doubled again, with 4.2% of seniors over 65 using weed.
Use was highest among women, racial or ethnic minorities, and seniors who were married, college-educated, had mental health issues and had incomes of $20,000 to $49,000 and $75,000 or higher.
“Marijuana use among seniors is not bouncing up and down like with other drugs,” Palamar said. “It’s a straight line up.”
“I was curious to see if it was people who are more sick, with say, multiple chronic conditions, trying cannabis, or is it the healthier people, perhaps with only one health condition,” Han said. “And it appears it’s the healthier older people who are trying cannabis more.”
“There’s a very limited evidence base for what the benefits of cannabis are, who it benefits the most, what the risks are, and who it may harm the most,” Han added.
Read more about the study here.