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Cannabis use among boomers on the rise

Published May 26, 2019 01:32 p.m. ET
Credit: Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance

It may not be for the same reason the boomers used it years ago, but the herb is being used more and more. This time many seniors are using the cannabis for pain relief, sleeping aids, and arthritic complaints. The reasons for using marijuana are wide, from recreational to medicinal and boomers currently make up for half of the medical cannabis users. Arthritis is the main complaint that health care providers are hearing, and the main reason for suggesting cannabis to help address the symptoms.

Seniors are looking at cannabis to replace addictive and highly dangerous prescription opioids and benzodiazepines prescribed by health care practitioners.

Canadian seniors over the age of 65 represent 2% of users stated by the Canadian Statistics Survey. And two-thirds of the medical marijuana license holders are using cannabis for arthritic complaints. This is a complaint that is more common among the senior population.  The numbers are about to change, legalization for recreational weed and the provision for edibles is expected to increase the number of seniors trying cannabis or returning to cannabis for treatment of medical conditions and wellness regimes.

Canadian family doctors are beginning to feel more comfortable prescribing cannabis. Evidence is apparent and encouraging for cannabis helping:

• Nerve pain
• Chemotherapy induced side effects like nausea and vomiting
• Spasticity with multiple sclerosis and effects from spinal cord injury
• End of life pain in conjunction with palliative care

However, there is further evidence that chronic pain, insomnia, and PTSD can also be addressed with the use of cannabis.

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Interactions with other drugs that seniors are prescribed need to be monitored.  There is the possibility that some interactions can cause serious cognitive impairment along with damage to motor skill functions.

Credit Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance

It begs the question, why are more seniors using cannabis? One could believe that the legalization of the plant has de-stigmatized the use of cannabis for some. Or is it a cultural reason? The media could be responsible for the increase of seniors using weed. The information and broadcasting of cannabis as a “wonder drug” has encouraged the senior population to come back to cannabis or for those who have never used it to try it. Many seniors are leaning towards cannabis for common issues that seniors deal with. Joint pain, loss of appetite and insomnia are just some of the concerns that are addressed for seniors who are trying or using cannabis.

As we move forward in the cannabis industry, seniors will be an important part of the equation.  Seniors are a fast-growing part of the market for cannabis products. Though the methods of consumption may have changed for seniors that indulged 40 years ago. Smoking is not the best way to administer anymore. Lotions, pills, and tinctures containing THC/CBD are becoming an important commodity in the pharmacological world. Seniors are reducing their use of opioids by substituting meds with cannabis use.

With this increase in marijuana use by seniors, seniors need to be mindful that they should always consult with their health providers before changing their medication regime to include cannabis.

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