According to the latest research from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, older adults are turning to cannabis predominantly for medical reasons, seeking relief from various common health conditions.
With the increasing curiosity about the potential health benefits of cannabis and the growing number of states legalizing its use, there has been a notable shift in cannabis consumption patterns, particularly among older adults.
According to the latest research from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, older adults are turning to cannabis predominantly for medical reasons, seeking relief from various common health conditions, such as pain, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on October 7, 2020, surveyed 568 patients, with 15 percent reporting cannabis use within the past three years, half of whom were regular, employing cannabis primarily for medical purposes.
Addressing the findings, Christopher Kaufmann, Ph.D., professor in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at UC San Diego, highlighted that pain, anxiety, and insomnia were the most common reasons for cannabis use, with patients experiencing positive outcomes, particularly for insomnia and pain management.
The researchers were intrigued by the fact that 61 percent of cannabis users in the study had initiated its use after the age of 60.
This finding led to identifying a unique group of individuals who had chosen cannabis as a viable option later in life. Kevin Yang, medical student and co-first author at UC San Diego, noted that this group predominantly used cannabis for medical purposes rather than recreational use.
Additionally, they were more inclined to use cannabis topically, such as lotions, rather than through smoking or ingesting edibles. Importantly, these new users were also more open about discussing their cannabis use with their doctors, reflecting the declining stigma associated with cannabis in recent years.
The study's authors pointed out that the increasing availability of CBD-only products, which do not contain the psychoactive compound THC, may contribute to more older adults trying cannabis or cannabis-based products for the first time. This trend is likely to be reflected in future surveys.
Given the rising number of older adults turning to cannabis for health reasons, Alison Moore, MD, and chief of the Division of Geriatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine emphasized the importance of healthcare professionals becoming aware of cannabis use in this age group and understanding both its benefits and potential risks.
Integrating evidence-backed information about cannabis into medical school curricula and routinely incorporating screening questions about cannabis use during clinic visits could help healthcare providers better address the needs of their older patients.
While the study sheds light on the growing popularity of cannabis among seniors, the researchers stressed the need for further investigations into the safety and efficacy of various cannabis formulations in treating common conditions among older adults.
These studies could provide valuable insights to ensure that cannabis use is maximized for its benefits while minimizing potential harm.
As Christopher Kaufmann eloquently said, "There seems to be potential with cannabis, but we need more evidence-based research."
Understanding how cannabis compares to existing medications, its potential as an alternative to opioids and benzodiazepines, and its role in reducing polypharmacy among older adults are essential aspects that warrant in-depth exploration.
Only with a solid body of research can we provide appropriate counseling to older adults considering cannabis as a therapeutic option.
The "Silver Revolution" of cannabis use among older adults demands our attention and commitment to uncovering the truth behind its efficacy and safety for this growing demographic.