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Marijuana use among older adults increasing; effects of the drug on seniors uncertain

As the number of older adults using marijuana increases, researchers say more information is needed to determine the effects of the drug on seniors.

“Given the unprecedented aging of the U.S. population, we are facing a never before seen cohort of older adults who use recreational drugs,” Dr. Benjamin Han, a geriatrician and health-services researcher at New York University, said in the news release. “With the increased availability of legalized marijuana, there is an urgent need to understand the prevalence of its use and also its effects among older generations.”

The researchers said older adults could be at high risk for adverse health outcomes when they concurrently use multiple substances, like marijuana and prescription drugs.

Marijuana Map of U.S. as of Nov. 2016

“Older people may use marijuana for a variety of reasons, including medical reasons. However, we need to make sure they are not using in a hazardous manner since older adults may be vulnerable to its possible adverse effects,” Han said. “One particular concern for older users is the risk of falls while using marijuana; however, this has not yet been studied.”

The research, published in the journal Addiction, reviewed self-reported data from more than 47,000 adults aged 50 and older from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2006 to 2013.

It found that marijuana use rose 71 percent among adults 50 and older in 2006-13, increasing from 2.8 percent a decade ago to 4.8 percent in 2013, reports the Associated Press. It also found the rate of use dropped “significantly” for adults 65 and older, though it rose 2.5 times over eight years.

Most older adults in the study didn’t consider marijuana risky, with only 5 percent said they felt using marijuana once or twice a week was not a great risk to their health.

“I thought the perception of low risk was fascinating because, typically, we think of older generations as drug-adverse, and perceiving most drugs to be risky,” Joseph J. Palamar, one of the researchers said in the release. “But apparently very few Baby Boomers consider marijuana use risky. But after all, this was the generation who was there, in the late 1960s, when the counterculture revolution exploded marijuana into mainstream popularity.”

From Kentucky Health News

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