Study shows medical cannabis consumption is rising among seniors

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Woman holding senior woman’s hand on bed

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Canadian researchers have just released fascinating findings from a study into medical cannabis use among seniors. The results show that a growing number of older people appear to be using the leafy plant in “The Great White North”, which legalized cannabis in October 2018.

The rate of cannabis consumption growth among seniors seems to outshine other age groups, according to the team from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. In order to come to this conclusion, the researchers analyzed surveys carried out by a commercial medical cannabis provider between the years 2014 and 2020.

A gradual spike in the amount of senior cannabis consumers in Canada was noticed, inflating from 17.6 percent in 2017 to 31.2 percent in 2019.

Specifically, the older cannabis consumer demographic chose to use cannabis as a means of easing pain, with the majority prefering the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) over the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Moreover, in excess of 40 percent of senior opioid users reported a mild or significant reduction in opioid use after they introduced cannabis into their daily routine.

Study on senior cannabis consumption: Cannabis helped seniors with sleep and mood

Mood and sleep changes were noted by the people whose information was analyzed for this study on senior cannabis consumption. Additionally, pain levels improved by at least 50 percent. It should be noted, however, that 15 to 20 percent of respondents claimed to experience no improvement in their symptoms, with some even reported worsening symptoms post-consumption.

Study co-investigator Krista L. Lanctot, who also assumes the role of senior scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, says that the findings demonstrate a growing need for more intense investigation into the pros and cons of cannabis among senior age groups.

“Cannabis effects may differ in older adults due to altered metabolism, comorbidities, and use of concurrent medications,” Lanctot explained to reporters at Medscape Medical News. The scientist added that she thinks the plant would prove more useful in treating psychiatric disorders.

The results of this study on senior cannabis consumption were highlighted at the virtual American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, which took place on March 18.

Study on senior cannabis consumption: Similar trend noticed in the U.S.

A separate study that focused on senior cannabis consumption in the U.S. was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine last year. Interestingly, self-reported cannabis use among adults aged 65 and above grew to 4.2 percent in 2018 from 2.4 percent in 2015.

For this particular study, data was pulled from the 2015-2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by a team of researchers at the New York University School of Medicine. The team found that key groups of seniors, such as females, adults with bigger household incomes, diabetes patients, mental health patients, and certain racial and ethnic minorities, started using more cannabis.

“Cannabis use was very stigmatized in the past but now we have all these new laws passing about medical use of cannabis, so people are curious to see if it is something that can be used to treat their chronic disease,” concluded co-author of the research, Benjamin Han.