The use of cannabis among seniors in the United States is on the rise, with more older adults turning to the drug for medicinal purposes. While some seniors have been using marijuana for decades, others are trying it for the first time to help with sleep, pain relief, and anxiety, especially when traditional prescription drugs have not been effective or have unwanted side effects.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2007, only 0.4% of people aged 65 and older reported using cannabis in the past year. By 2016, that number had risen to almost 3%, and as of 2022, it was over 8%. This growing trend is likely to continue as more states legalize cannabis for recreational and medical use.
Many seniors are experimenting with cannabis and sharing their experiences with one another. Some have reported significant improvements in their ailments, such as better sleep or reduced pain. However, because marijuana's medicinal properties have not been extensively studied, doctors have limited guidance on its benefits and risks, particularly for older users.
Cannabis companies are capitalizing on the increasing interest from seniors, offering products and tips specifically targeted at this demographic. Some brands have even created lines of cannabis products tailored to older adults, promoting their potential benefits for memory, mood, and sleep.
However, it is essential for older adults to be aware of potential drug interactions and consider how cannabis can affect cognition, coordination, and balance. Doctors recommend starting with a low dose and monitoring the effects before increasing it. Taking too many edibles can lead to adverse effects, such as dizziness, confusion, and panic attacks.
Seniors considering cannabis use for medical purposes should discuss the risks and benefits with their doctors, especially if they are already taking medications or have chronic conditions. It's important to note that cannabis can interact with certain drugs and may not be suitable for everyone.
While cannabis may provide relief for some seniors, it's crucial to proceed with caution and educate oneself about the different strains, dosages, and state regulations. Through trial and error, individuals can find what works best for them and potentially reduce their reliance on multiple medications.
As the use of cannabis among seniors continues to grow, further research is needed to fully understand its effects and provide more comprehensive guidance for older adults and their healthcare providers.