Cannabis use is on the rise among older adults as more states move toward legalization for medical or recreational use, according to new analysis published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The number of adults over 65 who used cannabis in the last year increased 75% between 2015 and 2018, according to the study by researchers at New York University School of Medicine.
The portion of seniors using cannabis is still small. The analysis estimated that about 4.2% of seniors used cannabis in 2018, compared to 2.4% in 2015. But that’s a dramatic increase from a decade ago — less than half of 1% of seniors reported cannabis use in 2006.
The report was based on a survey of nearly 15,000 adults over age 65 asked about their use of cannabis, marijuana, hashish, pot, grass and hash oil — either smoked or ingested.
Though not backed up by clinical research, cannabis is believed to have medicinal benefits, specifically in reducing pain. But researchers found that the increase in cannabis use among seniors was driven by individuals who do not have chronic health conditions.
Researchers found the greatest increases in cannabis use among women, racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with higher incomes, and individuals with a mental health condition.
The study also found an increase in the number of older adults who used cannabis and alcohol, a combination that is more dangerous than using either substance alone.
The study’s authors said the findings to the need for more research about how cannabis affects older adults.