More Old Age Potheads are smoking weed as cannabis is legalised, doctors reveal
In the days of moral panics about ‘reefer madness’, older folks were deeply worried about younger people smoking weed. Now cannabis use among ‘older adults’ is skyrocketing in places where the herb has been legalised. Doctors have released a report which found a ten-fold increase in weed consumption among elderly people aged 65 and over. Researchers from the University of Colorado surveyed 136 people aged 60 or over living in 13 Colorado counties, where marijuana can be obtained for medical or recreational use. This is the first study to examine how elderly people are using cannabis in the wake of legalisation and was published this month in the journal Drugs & Aging. ‘Older Americans are using cannabis for a lot of different reasons,’ said study co-author Hillary Lum, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. ‘Some use it to manage pain while others use it for depression or anxiety.
The study identified ‘a general reluctance among some to ask their doctors for a red card to obtain medical marijuana’, with respondents choosing to pay more for recreational weed. Lum said this could be driven by feeling self-conscious about asking a doctor for cannabis, suggesting a failure of communication between health care providers and their patients. ‘I think [doctors can] be a lot more open to learning about it and discussing it with their patients,’ said one focus group respondent. ‘Because at this point I have told my primary care I was using it on my shoulder. And that was the end of the conversation. ‘He didn’t want to know why, he didn’t want to know about effects, didn’t want to know about side effects, didn’t want to know anything.’ Some said their doctors were unable or unwilling to provide the certificate needed to obtain medical marijuana.
They also called on medical professionals to ‘educate themselves on the latest cannabis research’. ‘Although study participants discussed recreational cannabis more negatively than medical cannabis, they felt it was more comparable to drinking alcohol, often asserting a preference for recreational cannabis over the negative effects of alcohol,’ the study said. The researchers also discovered that some older people still felt a stigma attached to the consumption of cannabis. ‘Some participants, for example, referred to the movie `Reefer Madness’ (1936) and other anti-marijuana propaganda adverts that negatively framed cannabis as immoral and illegal,’ they said. ‘From a physician’s standpoint, this study shows the need to talk to patients in a non-judgmental way about cannabis. ‘Doctors should also educate themselves about the risks and benefits of cannabis and be able to communicate that effectively to patients.’