A new report has found that baby boomers are consuming more weed than they did 10 years ago.
The research was conducted by the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and the New York University Medical School. Researchers also found that marijuana use for middle-aged people has more than doubled in less than 10 years.
The report found that 2.9 percent of people aged 65 or older have used marijuana in the last year and only 22 percent said that they had not used marijuana before.
About 9 percent of adults between 50 and 64 years of age reportedly consumed marijuana in the past year with 54.5 percent of those having used the drug in the past. Dr. Joseph Palamar was one of the lead authors of the study and says that many baby boomers first tried weed in the 1960's as young folks.
"Most baby boomers who recently used marijuana first used as teens during the 1960's and 1970's. This doesn’t mean these individuals have been smoking marijuana for all these years, but most current users are by no means new initiates," wrote Palamar.
Marijuana is Becoming Legal and Socially Acceptable
Palamar believes that more older adults are consuming marijuana again as it gains social acceptance and is becoming legal. Medical marijuana is legal in 31 states as well as Washington, D.C.
The researchers compiled the study based on data from the 2015-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Analysts studied responses from 17,608 people who were 50 years of age and older.
The report also found that many respondents reported that their physician had recommended marijuana as a treatment option. Approximately 15 percent of marijuana consumers between 50 and 64 said that their doctor had recommended that they use marijuana.
For those aged 65 and older, 22.9 percent said that they had been recommended the drug by a physician.
A study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine earlier this year found that marijuana is safer for older patients. The study was conducted in Israel by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Researchers there found that medical marijuana significantly reduced pain while also improving the quality of life for patients 65 and older after six months with little to no side effects.
The Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal also concludes that marijuana can treat older adults. "Marijuana has been shown to have benefits in treating certain conditions that affect older adults, including neuropathic pain and nausea," noted Dr. Benjamin Han, the study's other lead author.
However, Han also noted that some older people could be at a higher risk for adverse side effects associated with marijuana use, especially if they have a substance abuse problem or an underlying chronic condition.
"We found high rates of unhealthy substance use (tobacco, alcohol, prescription drug misuse) by middle-aged and older adults who use marijuana," he said, adding that using marijuana with alcohol can lead to unintended consequences because the combination of the drugs can intensify the side effects.
"Combining marijuana with alcohol can really knock someone on their ass if they weren’t expecting such strong effects," added Dr. Palamar.
Even so, other studies have shown that marijuana could serve as an exit drug from opioid use. Marijuana can decrease withdrawal symptoms from opioids and help the detox process while also helping to repair diseased brain tissue. There are also less opioid painkiller prescriptions written in states with legal marijuana programs and therefore less people overdosing from prescription drugs.
The authors of the study suggest that physicians screen their older patients who consume marijuana for other substances and make sure that they understand the risks of combining marijuana with other substances.