More and more seniors are using weed to treat pain, get better sleep, and reduce their anxiety.
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Older Americans face health issues that range from chronic pain and trouble sleeping to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression. But rather than turn to traditional pharmaceuticals for relief, they are increasingly choosing cannabis and CBD.
A new study from the University of California-San Diego found that 15 percent of seniors report using cannabis within the last three years. Of those, 50 percent said they use cannabis regularly and mostly for medical purposes.
Also, sixty-percent of patients initiated that use after reaching the age of 61, according to the study, which the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society recently published.
“Surprisingly, we found that nearly three-fifths of cannabis users reported using cannabis for the first time as older adults,” said Kevin Yang, a co-author of the study and third-year medical student at UC San Diego, in a news release. „These individuals were a unique group compared to those who used cannabis in the past.”
The new study’s findings build upon other recent research that has found the use of cannabis among seniors has doubled to 3 percent of all seniors in recent years. It’s a rapidly growing market demographic for cannabis entrepreneurs.
Seniors are treating a variety of medical conditions
Researchers conducted the study with patients surveyed at the Medicine for Seniors Clinic at UC San Diego Health over the course of 10 weeks.
A majority of those who started using cannabis over the age of 61 said they did so for medical, not recreational, reasons. Just over half (53 percent) of the patients surveyed reported using cannabis and CBD on a daily or weekly basis.
The patients reported using cannabis for the following reasons:
- Pain/arthritis (73 percent)
- Sleep disturbance (29 percent)
- Anxiety (24 percent)
- Depression (17 percent)
More than 75 percent said cannabis proved “somewhat” or “extremely” helpful in managing all these issues.
A growing market
Most expect the cannabis industry to increasingly focus on seniors as the population in the United States continues to age. For the first time in history, the number of adults over 65 will outnumber children under 18 by 2034, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At that point, those 65 and older will make up 23.4 percent of the population, the largest in amount in history.
That’s a huge market for the marijuana industry, which makes the findings of the UC-San Diego study worth noting. The study found that among the seniors who do use cannabis, about half got it from a dispensary. The most common methods for consumption were lotions, tinctures and smoking.
In another sign of the increased acceptance of marijuana, 94 percent of the seniors in the study said their family was aware of their cannabis use. Half reported that their friends knew. However, only 41 percent said their healthcare provider knew.
Commenting on the study, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said the results aren’t surprising.
“Many seniors struggle with pain, anxiety, restless sleep, and other conditions for which cannabis products may help mitigate,” he said. “Moreover, many seniors are well aware of the litany of serious adverse side-effects associated with available prescription drugs, like opioids or sleep aids, and they perceive medical cannabis to be a practical and potentially safer alternative.”
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