Have those weed-loving hippies taken their habit into the new millennium?
Maybe so: New research shows pot isn’t the drug of choice for just the young anymore. More middle-aged folks, and even seniors, are lighting up nowadays, researchers say.
In fact, federal survey data show that 9 percent of adults aged 50 to 64 and nearly 3 percent of those aged 65 or older have used marijuana within the past year.
“That’s almost 1 out of 10. It’s still much lower than a lot of the other age groups, but it’s increasing steadily,” said senior researcher Joseph Palamar, an associate professor in the department of population health at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
It’s double the percentage of those aged 50 to 64 who reported marijuana use a decade ago (4.5 percent), and more than seven times the percentage of adults aged 65 and older who reported use back then (0.4 percent), the researchers noted.
Most of these people used marijuana back in the 1960s or 1970s, and are returning to pot use as it’s become more socially acceptable, Palamar explained.
Nearly all marijuana users aged 50 to 64 and more than half those aged 65 or older first tried pot when they were 21 or younger, the study found.
“To read that they’re dipping back into cannabis use in their late adulthood is not very surprising to me,” said Dr. Tim Brennan, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospitals, both in New York City.
Tough drug laws and the responsibilities of adulthood might have caused these people to stop using marijuana from the 1980s onward, he explained.
“Now that states are legalizing it, perhaps they feel empowered to resume their usage,” said Brennan, who was not involved with the research.
For the study, the researchers analyzed responses from 17,608 adults aged 50 and older from the 2015-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Participants were asked about marijuana use, including when they first used it and whether they used it in the past year.
Brennan found it concerning that some of these older people used marijuana on a doctor’s recommendation.
About 15 percent of users aged 50 to 64 and 23 percent of those 65 and older said a doctor had recommended it to them.
But there’s not much scientific evidence that marijuana has any medicinal benefit, Brennan said. Without further research to establish its effectiveness, doctors should not be prescribing pot.
“Telling a patient to use cannabis seems to me to be skipping all of the scientific steps we usually go through to start prescribing a new therapeutic agent,” Brennan said.
Survey responses also link pot use with other unhealthy substance use. Older folks using marijuana were more likely to report alcoholism, nicotine dependence, cocaine use and misuse of prescription painkillers.
Importantly, older people who dig out their old bongs might respond differently to pot from what they remember in their youth, Palamar said.
Today’s marijuana is much more potent, and age can alter how your body reacts to a drug, he explained.
The study was published Sept. 6 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
By: JV Staff
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