A forum for healthcare practitioners with an interest in medicinal cannabis
Yang KH, Kaufmann CN, Nafsu R, Lifset ET, Nguyen K, Sexton M, Han BH, Kim A, Moore AA. Cannabis: An Emerging Treatment for Common Symptoms in Older Adults.J Am Geriatr Soc. 2021 Jan;69(1):91-97. doi: 10.1111/jgs.16833. Epub 2020 Oct 7. PMID: 33026117.
Background/objectives: Use of cannabis is increasing in a variety of populations in the United States; however, few investigations about how and for what reasons cannabis is used in older populations exist.
Design: Anonymous survey.
Setting: Geriatrics clinic.
Participants: A total of 568 adults 65 years and older.
Intervention: Not applicable.
Measurements: Survey assessing characteristics of cannabis use.
Results: Approximately 15% (N = 83) of survey responders reported using cannabis within the past 3 years. Half (53%) reported using cannabis regularly on a daily or weekly basis, and reported using cannabidiol-only products (46%). The majority (78%) used cannabis for medical purposes only, with the most common targeted conditions/symptoms being pain/arthritis (73%), sleep disturbance (29%), anxiety (24%), and depression (17%). Just over three-quarters reported cannabis "somewhat" or "extremely" helpful in managing one of these conditions, with few adverse effects. Just over half obtained cannabis via a dispensary, and lotions (35%), tinctures (35%), and smoking (30%) were the most common administration forms. Most indicated family members (94%) knew about their cannabis use, about half reported their friends knew, and 41% reported their healthcare provider knowing. Sixty-one percent used cannabis for the first time as older adults (aged ≥61 years), and these users overall engaged in less risky use patterns (e.g., more likely to use for medical purposes, less likely to consume via smoking).
Conclusion: Most older adults in the sample initiated cannabis use after the age of 60 years and used it primarily for medical purposes to treat pain, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and/or depression. Cannabis use by older adults is likely to increase due to medical need, favorable legalization, and attitudes.