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.

How Much Does Marijuana Impact Your Driving?

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: A rigorous federal research study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse offers new data on the effects of marijuana on driving performance.

The exact impact of marijuana on driving ability is a controversial subject—and it’s become more important states continue to loosen their drug laws. And, while drunk driving is on the decline in the U.S., driving after having smoked or otherwise consumer marijuana has become more common. According to the most recent national roadside survey from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of weekend nighttime drivers, 8.3 percent had some alcohol in their system and 12.6 percent tested positive for THC—up from 8.6 percent in 2007.

It is illegal in all states to drive under the influence of anything, but years of work went in to establishing the .08 breathe alcohol limit that exists in most states. The question is whether we can establish a similar threshold for pot.

How Much Does Marijuana Impact Your Driving?

IOWA:  A rigorous federal research study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse offers new data on the effects of marijuana on driving performance.

The exact impact of marijuana on driving ability is a controversial subject—and it’s become more important states continue to loosen their drug laws. And, while drunk driving is on the decline in the U.S., driving after having smoked or otherwise consumer marijuana has become more common. According to the most recent national roadside survey from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of weekend nighttime drivers, 8.3 percent had some alcohol in their system and 12.6 percent tested positive for THC—up from 8.6 percent in 2007.

It is illegal in all states to drive under the influence of anything, but years of work went in to establishing the .08 breathe alcohol limit that exists in most states. The question is whether we can establish a similar threshold for pot.

Marijuana Gears Up For Production High In US Labs

MARYLAND: Residents of 23 US states can buy medical marijuana to treat everything from cancer pain to anxiety, but US scientists must wade through onerous paperwork to score the drug for study. Their sole dealer is the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which has a contract with the University of Mississippi in Oxford to produce marijuana for research purposes.

The agency has long faced complaints that its marijuana is too weak to represent what is sold on the street, and contains low levels of the non-psychedelic chemicals that show therapeutic promise for conditions such as epilepsy and chronic pain. Now, with legal marijuana increasingly available to the US public, NIDA is quietly changing course — working to expand the amount and variety of the drug available for study.

“We want to be able to evaluate the claims that marijuana is therapeutically beneficial” and to explore treatments for addiction, says Nora Volkow, director of NIDA in Rockville, Maryland.

Laws Make Studying Marijuana Difficult

DELAWARE: The only marijuana available for research in the U.S. is locked down by federal regulators who are more focused on studies to keep people off the drug than helping researchers learn how it might be beneficial.

Marijuana is a trend that “will peak like tobacco then people will see their error,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which serves as the gatekeeper for U.S. marijuana research through its oversight of a pot farm that grows the only plants that can be used in clinical trials.

Meanwhile, marijuana advocates say NIDA’s control over research has made almost impossible their ability to test the drug against ailments such as pain, cancer-related nausea and epilepsy.

The federal researchers aren’t “set up to study potential medical benefits, so it’s inappropriate for NIDA to have a monopoly on supply,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington-based group that lobbies to change marijuana laws.

DEA To Boost Marijuana Supply For Research

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is approving a massive increase in the amount of marijuana that government researchers can use for studies due to a growing interest in medical marijuana.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will now have access to 650 kilograms of pot, after the DEA announced Friday in the Federal Register it is raising the production quota from 21 kilograms.

“That’s a lot of marijuana,” DEA spokeswoman Barbara Carreno said. “One kilogram is equivalent to a brick. So 650 kilograms would look like 650 bricks and would probably fill a cargo van.”

The increase comes as efforts to legalize medical marijuana have gained momentum around the country. The move could quiet some critics who say NIDA, a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been tightfisted with its supply of research-grade pot.

Federal Drug Agency Denies Marijuana Is Less Toxic Than Alcohol

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The National Institute on Drug Abuse released an eyebrow-raising statement to PolitiFact on Monday, denying that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol. [Read more…]