Emerging Weed Users: Grandma, Grandpa

Nancy Grover

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Older workers may be more inclined to test positive for marijuana use. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows the percentages of those over age 65who either smoke or ingest the drug have risen steadily in recent years.

“The use of cannabis in the past year by adults 65 years and older in the United States increased sharply from 0.4% in 2006 and 2007 to 2.9% in 2015 and 2016,” the study said. Between 2015 and 2018, “the prevalence of past-year cannabis use among adults 65 years and older increased significantly from 2.4% to 4.2%, a 75% relative increase.”

Researchers out of New York University’s School of Global Public Health analyzed data from 14,896 respondents to the 2015-2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Use of cannabis was determined by asking about marijuana, hashish, pot, grass, and hash oil that was either smoked or ingested.

“We determined that a number of key subgroups experienced marked increases in cannabis use, including women, racial/ethnic minorities, those with higher family incomes, and those with mental health problems,” the authors wrote. “While we also found an increase in cannabis use among older people with diabetes, in general, it appears that the increase in cannabis use is driven largely by those who do not have multiple chronic medical conditions.”

Somewhat surprising was the increased use of cannabis among older adults with diabetes, not generally associated with relief from the drug. Nevertheless, there was a 180 percent relative increase in use among diabetics, from 1 percent in 2015 compared with 2.8 percent in 2018.

There was also an increased use of cannabis among those who also use alcohol. “The risk associated with co-use is higher than the risk of using either alone, and a 2019 study of trends in alcohol and cannabis co-use following legalization in Washington state found significant increases in simultaneous cannabis and alcohol use among adults 50 years and older,” the study said. “Future research is needed to monitor and educate older patients regarding co-use to minimize potential harms.”

The authors warned of additional potential harm from older adults using cannabis, such as increased dizziness which could lead to falls, and the interaction of the drug with other medications. They also noted that the cannabis now circulating is generally much more potent than it was in the 1960s and ‘70s, when those over 65 may have first tried it.

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