It appears that more seniors in America are choosing marijuana over traditional treatments. Minority women who are over 65 and diabetic are the most affected by this trend. So it's no surprise that a shocking study reveals that more seniors are turning to marijuana.
Why are seniors turning to pot?
There could be several reasons prompting this 75% increase in marijuana use among the elderly. For starters, this could be one of the consequences of weed legalization across many states. Legalization has made it easier for seniors (and everyone else) to access weed. Also, the ongoing conversations on weed have helped to destigmatize the herb. With this, more people are open to trying cannabis for medicinal or recreational use.
Another factor that should not be overlooked is the aggressive marketing efforts targeted at seniors. Cannabis, specifically CBD, has been marketed as a long-term pain and inflammation remedy. Cannabis has also been cited as a potential treatment for several chronic illnesses. Consequently, several businesses that sell cannabis have created products that specifically appeal to this age bracket.
Study On Cannabis Use Among Seniors
A recent study that was published in JAMA Network in February 2020 showed that more seniors are using marijuana. Data for this study was conducted from 2015-2018.
This study involved almost 15,000 participants, 55% of whom were male. The results showed a 75% increase in the number of older adults who consume pot.
The results further confirmed that marijuana use has been on a steady increase from 2015. It was revealed that more elderly women than elderly men are using marijuana. Also, minorities and diabetics are more inclined to marijuana use. Surprisingly, the study showed that people with college degrees were more likely to use marijuana than their less-educated counterparts. Lastly, those with mental illnesses were also more likely to use marijuana.
The lead author of the study Benjamin Han told Market Watch that the passing of medical marijuana laws in many states played a role in promoting this trend. It could also be that the elderly population is now more open-minded about unconventional forms of treatment.
The baby boomer generation happens to have had more interaction with weed than previous generations. This could also be the result of earlier exposure to cannabis. A report that was released by EAZE (a marijuana delivery app) showed complementary statistics: Baby boomers are spending more on cannabis than any other age group.
What Are the Benefits of Cannabis for Seniors?
Seniors, just like everyone else, can derive significant healing benefits from cannabis. Being a natural remedy, many seniors are preferring cannabis over traditional pharma drugs. Below are several benefits that appeal to seniors:
1. Stimulates appetite
Cannabis is known to cause the munchies. It uses different mechanisms to stimulate appetite. Most elderly people struggle with poor appetite and cannabis can help to relieve this.
2. Relieves pain
Cannabis has potent pain-relieving properties. The elderly may prefer pot to opioids because the latter cause severe side effects and addiction.
3. Promotes sleep
One in four Americans suffer from insomnia, the elderly are most affected. Traditional sleep aids (sedatives and hypnotics) come with significant risks and side effects. This includes drug tolerance, dependence, withdrawal symptoms, as well as rebound insomnia.
Cannabis compounds (both THC and CBD) are sleep-promoting agents. When used over a long duration, THC may not be effective as a sleep-promoting agent. However, when combined with CBD in a full-spectrum extract the result is prolonged and restful sleep with minimal adverse effects.
4. Relieves anxiety
About 16 million adults in America suffer from anxiety disorders. The elderly are more likely to be affected by anxiety just as they are more prone to mental health disorders.
For the elderly living with chronic anxiety, cannabis can offer significant relief. Cannabidiol (CBD) a chemical compound found in cannabis is responsible for this effect.
Several studies have shown that CBD plays a role in relieving different types of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety and social anxiety disorders.
5. Offers neuroprotective benefits
The elderly are more likely to be affected by dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. Studies have shown that cannabis has potential in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. However, further research is needed to confirm these findings.
6. Potential cancer cure
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death among the elderly in the US. A form of cannabis known as Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) has been popularized as a potential cure for cancer. This is after the inventor Rick Simpson used the oil to cure his skin cancer.
Currently, several studies are investigating the use of cannabinoids in treating different types of cancer.
Patients with advanced cancer mayalso benefit from the appetite-stimulating and pain-relieving properties of cannabis.
Is Cannabis Safe For Seniors?
There is conflicting evidence on the long-term safety of cannabis. Cannabidiol as a compound on its own has a very high safety profile. It rarely causes side effects and is well tolerated by most people.
THC on the other hand is safe for short term use. When used by teenagers over a long duration, concerns of memory impairment have been raised. However, as compared to traditional pharma drugs used to relieve the above-mentioned conditions, cannabis appears to be a safer alternative.
This partly explains why more seniors are turning to cannabis.