09 Oct Many Older Adults Using Cannabis For First Time
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Christopher Kaufmann, PhD
Co-first author of the study and assistant professor
Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine
UC San Diego
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: We examined cannabis use by older patients seen in our geriatrics clinic at the University of California San Diego. We surveyed patients who came to our clinic for routine care, and found that 15% of those surveyed had used cannabis within the past 3 years. Half of users reported using cannabis regularly and most used for medical purposes. The most common targeted conditions were pain, problems sleeping, and anxiety, and patients found cannabis to be helpful in treating these conditions. We also found that 61% had initiated cannabis use after age 60, and these new users engaged in less risky consumption practices than current users who also used earlier in life.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Our findings show that it will be important for the clinical workforce to become aware of cannabis use by seniors and gain awareness of both the benefits and risks of cannabis use in their patient population. It may be important to incorporate evidence-backed information about cannabis use into medical school curricula and continuing medical education, and use screening questions about cannabis as a regular part of office visits.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: With more states legalizing cannabis use for both medical and recreational purposes, we will likely see an increase in use of cannabis by older adults. Given this unique group of individuals is using cannabis primarily for medicinal purposes, it is imperative that more research is done on the benefits and risks of cannabis use among older adults. It is also important that we learn more about cannabis use in the older adult population to build more on what we are learning: why do people use it, what types of cannabis products are being used, where do older persons learn about these products, what are their attitudes regarding cannabis legalization, and more. Only then can we better understand the potential benefits and risks of cannabis and therefore be able to confidently counsel older adults on cannabis use.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: We were surprised that nearly three-fifths of cannabis users reported they used cannabis for the first time as older adults. These individuals were a unique group who used cannabis in safer ways than those who used earlier. For example, they were more likely to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, use it topically as a lotion (rather than ingesting it by smoking or edibles), and inform their doctor about their cannabis use. Given the rise in availability of CBD-only products, which is non-psychoactive in contrast to THC-containing psychoactive products, it is likely we will see more older adults using cannabis for the first time.
We have no disclosures to report.
Kevin H. Yang, Christopher N. Kaufmann, Reva Nafsu, Ella T. Lifset, Khai Nguyen, Michelle Sexton, Benjamin H. Han, Arum Kim, Alison A. Moore. Cannabis: An Emerging Treatment for Common Symptoms in Older Adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2020; DOI: 10.1111/jgs.16833
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