Older Adults Using More Cannabis But Still Fear Stigma Interview with:

Julie Bobitt, PhD Director Interdisciplinary Health Sciences College of Applied Health Sciences University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Champaign, IL  61820

Dr. Bobitt

Julie Bobitt, PhD
Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
College of Applied Health Sciences
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Champaign, IL  61820 What is the background for this study?

Response:  Older adults are using cannabis at an increasing rate but little is known about their attitudes about, and experiences – including outcomes- with, recreational and medical cannabis use. We believed a qualitative study, where we conducted focus group interviews, would provide a novel perspective to our understanding and help to identify the most salient themes concerning the use of medical and recreational cannabis by adults aged 60 and older living in Colorado. What are the main findings?

Response:  We identified five major themes in our study. These include
1) A need for research and education about cannabis;
2) A lack of communication between providers and older adults about cannabis;
3)  Barriers to medical cannabis access;
4) Study participants reported using cannabis for pain control and also reported reduced opioid usage;
5) Older adults were apprehensive about disclosing their use of cannabis (fear of stigma). What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: There needs to be more education and mainstream medical guidance about cannabis use, especially in the older adult population. Variations across states in cannabis laws and regulations likely also reflect variations in citizens’ attitudes and desire to use cannabis, generating a need for more research and systematic exploration of the themes of importance to these participants. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Future research in this area could include exploring the role of health care professionals in educating individuals about cannabis use.  Additionally, because our study participants reported an interest in the use of cannabis to reduce or stop opioid usage, research in this area would further our knowledge about the relationship between cannabis and opioid use. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: We have had two other publications from this study and are currently in the process of developing a manuscript on cannabis lifetime patterns of use.  In this part of our study we identify characteristics of older, first-time users, versus lifelong users.

Any disclosures?  Our research was funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The study co-authors include: Sara Qualls; Melissa Schuchman; Robert Wickersham; Kanika Arora; Hilary Lum; Gary Milavetz and Brian Kaskie. 


Julie Bobitt, Sara H. Qualls, Melissa Schuchman, Robert Wickersham, Hillary D. Lum, Kanika Arora, Gary Milavetz, Brian Kaskie. Qualitative Analysis of Cannabis Use Among Older Adults in Colorado. Drugs & Aging, 2019; DOI: 10.1007/s40266-019-00665-w

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Last Updated on June 3, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD