Why Are More Older People Using Cannabis?

The rumor that more older people are using cannabis is true. That’s according to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence in 2018 that suggests increasing numbers of middle-aged and older adults are using cannabis.

Based on data gathered in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2015 and 2016, researchers found that about 9 percent of U.S. adults between ages 50 and 64 used marijuana in the previous year and 3 percent of people over 65 used the drug in that same time period. That’s up from 2013 when the same survey reported that 7 percent of middle-aged Americans used marijuana in the previous year, and only 1.4 percent of people over 65.

And it doesn’t seem to be once or twice. Study authors found that because 5.7 percent of middle-aged respondents said they'd tried it in the past month, it’s likely they’re also a group who uses cannabis often.

Why Are Older Americans Using Cannabis?

Older Americans are using cannabis for the same reasons everyone else is: because it’s enjoyable or to self-medicate.

In regards to medical uses, another 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society (JAGS) found that the most common reasons were pain (64 percent), sleep (38 percent), anxiety (24 percent), depression (22 percent), and appetite stimulation (18 percent).

Why Now?

older americans using cannabis edibles

The United States is experiencing a dramatic increase in the acceptance of cannabis use. This is occurring at the same time that our elderly population is increasing. Indeed, Baby Boomers have higher rates of substance use compared to any previous generation.

And cannabis is also more available. A 2015 study using the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions showed that the prevalence of cannabis use more than doubled from 2001–02 to 2012–13.

What Are Older People Consuming?

buds on oil

The study published in JAGS found that the older American who uses cannabis seems to favor edibles (42 percent), more than smoking (29 percent). Respiratory issues associated with age may be one reason smoking is not as popular. Lotions and oils were also favorites among respondents.

Dr. Benjamin Han, an assistant professor of internal medicine at New York University School of Medicine and lead author of the study that analyzed NSDUH data, warned that baby boomers who've had prior experience with marijuana shouldn't necessarily use the same amount that they did when they were young. The potency of today’s cannabis is a lot higher than in the 60s and 70s and their ability to metabolize the drug is likely different. As Han put it, "A smaller amount is going to hit you a lot harder when you're older.”

Cannabis has a lot to offer, so it’s no surprise that as the stigma recedes, more Americans are turning to it to help them cope with a variety of ailment or for pleasure. If you’re new to cannabis, there are plenty of resources available to help you —including our skilled Experience Guides at our Oakland Dispensary. Stop by for help picking the perfect cannabis products for your goals.