Cannabis Use Among Older Adults Has Increased 75 Percent Since 2015

NEW YORK: Cannabis use continues to increase in popularity among adults 65 years of age and older in the United States, according to a new study from NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

Published today in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers estimate that cannabis use in adults age 65 and older increased from 2.4 percent to 4.2 percent in the United States, a significant increase of 75 percent, between 2015 and 2018.

With the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes in many states, medical professions are studying its use in treating a number of chronic health conditions. Since 1996, 31 states have legalized medical marijuana, while 11 states and Washington D.C. also have legalized recreational use. Previous research has shown cannabis use has been relatively stable in recent years.

“Our study shows cannabis use is increasingly popular nationwide among older adults,” says the study’s lead author, Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Geriatric Medicine, Palliative Care and Population Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “As more older adults use cannabis, whether for therapeutic or recreational purposes, it is important for health care providers to counsel their patients despite the very limited evidence base on the benefits and harms of cannabis use among older adults.”

For the study, researchers analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative survey from the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. The survey categorized cannabis use by asking whether marijuana, hashish, pot, grass, or hash oil were either smoked or ingested.

Researchers observed trends in prevalence of past-year cannabis use, broken down by socio-demographic background, chronic disease, healthcare utilization, and other substance use among adults age 65 and older, in the United States, between 2015 and 2018.

Certain subsets of this population saw an even higher rise in prevalence. For example, researchers estimated that past-year use more than doubled by older adults with diabetes, among those who have received mental health treatment, and those reporting past-year alcohol use. Women, and individuals who were married, had a college degree, and/or had higher income also significantly increased their cannabis use.

“We need to continue to study both the risks and benefits of marijuana use, especially among older individuals” says the study’s senior author, Joseph Palamar, MPH, PhD, associate professor of Population Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “This survey also did not ask about vaping of marijuana or THC products, so its possible use was underestimated. We must follow vaping trends closely, among all age groups.”

Researchers say they next plan to acquire more detailed information about how medical marijuana affects older populations, as well as the risks and side-effects. Furthermore, the profiles of other cannabinoids besides THC and CBD in medical marijuana products warrant further research, according to the study authors.

“This study gives us important insights into cannabis use among key groups of older adults, particularly baby boomers,” says Caroline S. Blaum, MD, the Diane and Arthur Belfer Professor of Geriatric Medicine and director of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care. “Understanding how our older patients use marijuana and evaluating its risks and benefits is one of the most important questions our field must answer to provide the best care.”

Funding for the study was provided by National Institute on Drug Abuse grants K23DA043651, K01DA038800 and P30DA011041.

Teens Living In US States Allowing Medical Marijuana Smoke Less Cannabis

MASSACHUSETTS: According to a large-scale study of American high school students, legalizing medicinal marijuana has actually led to a drop in cannabis use among teenagers.

The study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse used the results of an anonymous survey given to more than 800,000 high school students across 45 states to calculate the number of teens who smoke cannabis.

It found that the number of teenage cannabis smokers was 1.1% less in states that had enacted medical marijuana laws (MML) compared to those that hadn’t, even when accounting for other important variables such as tobacco and alcohol policies, economic trends, youth characteristics and state demographics.

“We found that for every group of 100 adolescents, one fewer will be a current user of marijuana following the enactment of medical marijuana laws,” says Dr Rebekah Levine Coley, a Professor of psychology at Boston College, who led the study.

“When we looked at particular subgroups of adolescents, this reduction became even more pronounced. For example 3.9% less Black and 2.7% less Hispanic youths now use marijuana in states with MML”.

As the survey was administered over a period of 16 years, the researchers were able to compare the changes in teenager’s marijuana use in states that adopted MML with those that hadn’t, allowing them to more precisely pinpoint the effects of the legislation. Intriguingly, the study found that the longer the laws had been in place, the greater the reduction in teen marijuana use.

The results shine a light on an important debate taking place in America about the relative benefits and risks of decriminalizing marijuana.

“Some people have argued that decriminalizing or legalizing medical marijuana could increase cannabis use amongst young people, either by making it easier for them to access, or by making it seem less harmful.” says Dr Rebekah Levine Coley.

“However, we saw the opposite effect. We were not able to determine why this is, but other research has suggested that after the enactment of medical marijuana laws, youths’ perceptions of the potential harm of marijuana use actually increased. Alternatively, another theory is that as marijuana laws are becoming more lenient, parents may be increasing their supervision of their children, or changing how they talk to them about drug use.”

Importantly the study found that unlike medical marijuana laws, decriminalizing recreational marijuana had no noticeable effect on adolescents’ cannabis use, except for a small decline in marijuana smoking among 14-year olds and people from Hispanic backgrounds, and an increase in use among white adolescents. Neither policies had any effect on frequent or heavy users of marijuana, suggesting that these students are not easily influenced by state laws.

Long-Term Cannabis Use Associated With Lower BMI

ARIZONA: Lifetime cannabis exposure is associated with lower body mass index (BMI), according to longitudinal data published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

Researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Pittsburgh assessed the association between long-term cannabis exposure and cardiometabolic risk factors in a cohort of 253 men. They reported that greater marijuana exposure was associated with lower BMI as well as lower cholesterol levels and other risk factors.

“Cannabis use is associated with lower BMI and lower BMI is related to lower levels of risk on other cardiometabolic risk factors,” they concluded.

The findings are consistent with those of prior studies concluding that cannabis exposure is associated with lower BMIlower rates of obesity, and fewer incidences of type 2 diabetes.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Associations between cannabis use and cardiometabolic risk factors: A longitudinal study of men,” appears in Psychosomatic Medicine.

 

Cannabis Use Is Associated With A Substantial Reduction In Premature Deaths In The United States

By Clark, Thomas M.
 
INDIANA: Adverse effects of moderate Cannabis use on physical health are subtle and rarely fatal, while Cannabis use is associated with decreased rates of obesity, diabetes mellitus, mortality from traumatic brain injury, use of alcohol and prescription drugs, driving fatalities, and opioid overdose deaths.
These data suggest that Cannabis use may decrease premature deaths. To date, no studies have attempted to estimate impacts of Cannabis use on premature death that include both adverse and beneficial effects on physical health. Marijuana use is estimated to reduce premature deaths from diabetes mellitus, cancer, and traumatic brain injury by 989 to 2,511 deaths for each 1% of the population using Cannabis. The analysis predicts an estimated 23,500 to 47,500 deaths prevented annually if medical marijuana were legal nationwide. A number of other potential causes of reduced mortality due to Cannabis use were revealed, but were excluded from the analysis because quantitative data were lacking. These estimates thus substantially underestimate the actual impact of Cannabis use on premature death.
Overall, prohibition is estimated to lead to similar numbers of premature deaths as drunk driving, homicide, or fatal opioid overdose. Cannabis use prevents thousands of premature deaths each year, and Cannabis prohibition is revealed as a major cause of premature death in the U.S.
Date: 2017-08-11
Publisher: Indiana University South Bend
Type: Article