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Why Medical Marijuana Use Is Growing Among Older Americans

May 19, 2020 • • General

Rising medical marijuana use among older demographics reveals shifting cultural perceptions of cannabis-based medicines.

  A recent study has found that the use of cannabis among Americans ages 65 and older is on the rise. When asked if they’d used marijuana in the past year, 0.4 percent of respondents said yes in 2006, which increased to 2.4 percent in 2015 and 4.2 percent in 2018.

A number of factors could be behind this recent uptick, but the continued lessening of the stigma associated with marijuana has certainly played a significant role. Currently, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legal medical marijuana programs, and 11 of those states and the capital have legalized recreational use, as well — something that would’ve seemed impossible a few decades ago.

Pew and Gallup polls have found that around two-thirds of Americans are in favor of legalization. However, both surveys found that older respondents trailed behind other demographics when it came to approval for legal marijuana use. So what’s causing the recent change in the over-65 age group? Here’s why we think transparency is driving the shift.

The AARP Has Started an Important Conversation

A major indication that cultural attitudes around medical marijuana are changing came last year when the AARP released
a feature on the benefits of medical marijuana. This is significant for a number of reasons, especially since the AARP has a membership of over 38 million and publishes the two highest-circulating publications in the country.

In the feature, the AARP offers a measured endorsement for the use of medical cannabis for older Americans in places where it’s been legalized. The piece provides a range of information — from busting common cannabis myths to explaining the different ways medical marijuana can be taken — and does so in an approachable way that helps make marijuana less of a taboo subject.

The AARP’s endorsement is cautious but significant. It rightly points out areas where more
research is needed, but also doesn’t shy away from highlighting the ways that medical marijuana can provide relief for a range of health conditions commonly experienced by older Americans.

How Medical Cannabis Can Benefit Older Patients

When taken with the supervision of a medical provider, medical marijuana can help with a
range of health conditions. These include everything from glaucoma to multiple sclerosis to chronic pain.

  Chronic pain is one condition that can have a variety of causes and encompass a number of different forms, all of which make it difficult to treat uniformly. Opioid medications were so heavily prescribed between 1999 and 2010 in part because they are able to effectively treat different kinds of pain. However, as the recent opioid epidemic has shown, they can cause serious side effects that older patients may not be willing or able to endure. Medical marijuana has been shown to provide similar pain relief with far fewer side effects.

There’s also some
preliminary research that shows that medical marijuana can be effective for managing some of the secondary symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. While both of these conditions primarily affect memory and cognitive function, they can result in confusion, agitation, and anxiety as well. One perk of legalized medical marijuana programs is that the additional regulation means there’s more control over strains and types of cannabis. Strains that are higher in CBD (which is a non-intoxicating, naturally occurring compound that provides body relaxation and pain relief without the psychoactive high typically associated with marijuana), can help assuage patients’ discomfort.

Providing Relief for Older Americans

Medical marijuana advocates and healthcare providers have done a lot of work to make cannabis-based medications available to millions of people around the world. By dispelling myths and having honest conversations about what we do and don’t know about medical marijuana, we’re able to see how more and more Americans are finding relief for their ongoing health conditions.

If you’re curious whether medical marijuana might be right for you or your loved one, feel free to
contact us today. At Lakewood Medical Clinic, we work hard to make medical cannabis approachable for everyone involved. Our team of trained marijuana experts are ready and able to answer questions from first-timers and experienced users alike. If you’re ready to get back to living life to the fullest, get in touch and we’ll do everything we can to help.