Marijuana use has become increasingly common among older Americans in the last decade, with rates doubling among adults 50 to 64 years old and almost seven times among those over 65, according to a new study.
Among middle-aged adults, 9 percent report having used marijuana in the last year, twice the 4.5 percent reported using in 2006-2007. While only 3 percent of adults 65 and older say they have used cannabis in the past year, that's seven times more than the 0.4 percent who reported consuming it in 2006-2007.
More than half (54.5 percent) of adults 50-64 years old have used marijuana at some time, and 22.4 percent of adults 65 and older have used the drug during the course of their lives.
In the last decade, marijuana use rates doubled among adults 50 to 64 years old and increased almost seven times among those over 65 years old.
The findings were reported in a new study conducted by the NYU School of Medicine and the Center for Drug Use and HIV / HCV Research at the NY Rory Meyers School of Nursing.
The researchers analyzed the responses of 17,608 adults over 50 years of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2015-2016 to write the study, published Thursday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
"The Baby Boomer generation grew during a period of important cultural changes, including an increase in the popularity of marijuana in the 60s and 70s," said Dr. Benjamin Han, lead author of the study. "Now we are in a new era of change of attitudes around marijuana, and as stigma decreases and access improves, it seems that Baby Boomers – many of whom have previous experience smoking marijuana – use it more and more" .
The researchers attributed the change to several factors, including the growing acceptance of the use of marijuana in the United States. UU For medicinal and recreational uses.
Nine states and the District of Columbia legalized cannabis for recreational purposes and 30 states legalized it for medical use.
Another factor in the increase in use among older Americans is that many users were probably already consuming it and only entered the category that researchers are measuring. In addition, many Baby Boomers had used marijuana for the first time in adolescence during the 60s and 70s, so they were not "new" users.
& # 39; People really do not need to be so alarmed, & # 39; Will my parents or grandparents start smoking marijuana? & # 39; Because most people have already smoked, co-author Joseph Palamar told DailyMail.com: "We do not have many new initiates in the United States."
Men in both age groups were more likely to use marijuana than women, and men accounted for 60 percent of users aged 50 to 64 years and 68.8 percent of those over 65.
Palamar said that older smokers of marijuana should be cautious, since the modern strains of the drug are significantly stronger than those available in the sixties and seventies.
The time when people started using marijuana was different: almost all (92.9 percent) of adults 50 to 64 years old first reported using cannabis at 21 years old or younger. By comparison, 54.7 percent of adults 65 and older say their initiation with marijuana was at that age.
Men in both age groups are more likely to use marijuana than women, men represent 60 percent of users aged 50-64 and 68.8 percent of those over 65.
About 15 percent of marijuana users aged 50-64 and 22.9 percent of those over 65 say that a doctor recommended cannabis for medical purposes.
The researchers did warn about the practice of mixing marijuana with other drugs, including prescription drugs such as opioids and sedatives.
"Marijuana has been shown to have benefits in treating certain conditions that affect older adults, such as neuropathic pain and nausea," Han said. "However, certain older adults may be at greater risk of associated adverse effects. with the use of marijuana, particularly if they have certain underlying chronic diseases or are also involved in the consumption of harmful substances. "
Palamar warned older users to be aware of what medications they take, for example, blood pressure medications, which could have an impact on the intensity with which they experience the medication.
Palamar also warned against 'particular edibles & # 39; and noted that it is more difficult to control the dosage when cannabis is consumed through food.
"If you ate too much: that's all, you ate too much and there's no way to stop the effects," he said. & # 39; While, if you're smoking it and it gets too much, you can stop & # 39;
An older woman smokes a marijuana cigarette at the Hempfest in August 2004 in Seattle