There is a sweeping change in attitudes and perceptions towards marijuana use in the United States.
The recent legalization of recreational marijuana (cannabis) use in California, Colorado, and Washington reflect this. Eight states have voted in favor of legal recreational marijuana and 26 states in total allow medicinal marijuana.
There is a common misperception that widespread marijuana use is limited to younger generations. However, the Baby Boomer generation has reported higher rates of substance use than any preceding generation.
To address this, Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, a geriatrician and health services researcher at the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) and in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC) and his team led a study, "Demographic Trends among Older Cannabis Users in the United States, 2006-2013."
Published in Addiction, the study sought to determine the trends in the prevalence and patterns of cannabis use, attitudes towards cannabis use, and determine correlates of use among adults over the age of 50.
The researchers evaluated responses from 47,140 adults aged 50 and older in the United States through a secondary analysis of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2006 to 2013. The NSDUH provides national data on the use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs and mental health in the United States.
An article in Medical News Today noted that the authors found a 71% increase in marijuana use among adults aged 50 and older between 2006 and 2013.
Adults ages 65 and older had a significantly lower prevalence of marijuana use compared to those ages 50-64, but prevalence of use increased two and a half times over eight years. Overall, prevalence was higher among men than women through all years.
The results, however, give the researchers reason to believe the population may be at a particularly high risk for adverse health outcomes, as the concurrent use of multiple substances (marijuana, prescribed prescription drug, and even self-prescribed illicit drugs) all used in combination may make older adults further vulnerable to poor physical and mental health outcomes and certainly can impact their care.