Medical Research

published : 2023-08-26

Rekindled Interest in Marijuana Sparks Rise in Its Use among Senior Citizens

Health Advisors Issue a Cautionary Note as Citizens Aged 65+ Supersede Younger Generations as the Fastest Growing Class of Cannabis Users

A close up of a thoughtful elderly person, perhaps in their mid-60s or older, pondering while looking at a rolled cannabis joint. The backdrop can be a home setting and the expression should reflect introspection rather than amusement, suggesting the serious consideration of cannabis use. (Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

Bursting onto the scene, the narrative evokes a shifting tide. America's senior citizens, individuals over the age of 65, are now outstripping their younger counterparts as the population witnessing the fastest surge in first-time cannabis use.

As revealed by the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, an esteemed federal report offering extensive data on tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use, as well as mental health, this older demographic is becoming increasingly venturesome.

Understandably, some baby boomers retort these figures may pale in comparison to their covert marijuana use during their youth, consumed for entirely different motivations.

The world saw a 'baby boom' in the aftermath of World War II, marking the birth of 76 million lives from 1946 to 1964. Out of this emerged the Baby Boomers, the generation that dared to experiment with drugs as they stepped into adulthood.

As research suggests, almost half of this generation tried their hands at illicit drugs during their younger years.

The perspective of marijuana use has changed since the 1970s and '80s, when the drug was a mystery source with unpredictable dosage and varying strength.

An alluring image capturing a variety of cannabis edibles - colorful gummies, chocolates, baked goods - arranged aesthetically on a table. The products should look enticing, deceptively regular, and not immediately identifiable as cannabis-infused. (Taken with a Nikon D850)

Bryan Smith, a 69-year-old Californian, reminisces, 'Many of us were smoking marijuana in the ‘70s or ’80s. There was no idea of dosage, strength or where the marijuana came from.'

Fast forward to today, the annual survey reveals an impressive five-fold increase in marijuana use, from 1.4% in 2012 to 7% in 2021, among adults over the age of 65.

Does this indicate a change in perception from seeing marijuana as a 'drug' to accepting it as an 'alternative medical therapy'? The question sparks debate.

Smith and his peers perceive a decline in the stigma attached to cannabis use among older consumers. Instead of smoking, edibles prove to be a preferred mode of consumption, promising more regulated dosage and a presumed healthier route.

With medical use of cannabis currently authorized in 38 states, three territories, and DC, 23 states, two territories, and DC even regulating its recreational use, a surge in usage isn't surprising.

Cannabis still remains a Schedule 1 substance federally, implying drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Yet, its escalating usage prompts consideration of its other aspects.

An urgent image of a busy emergency room, avoiding any identifiers to maintain patient privacy. The shot can be taken from a distance ensuring no focus on individuals, symbolizing the increased ER visits linked to cannabis use. (Taken with a Sony Alpha 7R IV)

Marijuana, known for its substance 'cannabinoids', contains 'Tetrahydrocannabinol' or THC - the element responsible for the drug's influence on the brain.

Experts propose a cautious note. 'The cannabis that the 1970s group used to use is not the cannabis of today, where products are much higher in THC content…' warns Smita Das, M.D., PhD, Chair of the Council on Addiction Psychiatry at American Psychiatric Association.

The older adults, armed with nostalgia but unaware of the enhanced potencies of modern marijuana, are more susceptible to its health hazards. These range from falls and impaired driving to negative medicinal interactions. A spike of 1800% in emergency room visits associated with cannabis use among elderlies from 2005 to 2019, as per latest studies, corroborates this warning.

Even so, the continual exploration of marijuana’s use among America's senior citizens remains a captivating narrative to follow.

The story teases potential benefits against potential dangers, always keepping you in a state of bated breath.