Cannabis Use Among US Seniors has Increased by up to 75%

25th February 2020

As conversation around Cannabis becomes more accepted, it also seems to be becoming more inclusive. According to a recent study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the number of seniors who use Cannabis products has seen a significant rise. 

Researchers compared the number of adults over the age of 65 who reported using Cannabis products. The findings, published on Monday 24th February, found that the figure increased by 75% between 2015 and 2018.

According to the study, 2.4% of over-65s in the United States used Cannabis products in 2015. This figure compares to an estimated 4.2% of seniors who reported Cannabis use in 2018.

Researchers carried out an analysis of data on adults aged 65 and over, sourced from the four most recent cohorts of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This analysis assessed the answers for almost 15,000 respondents.

What Does the Data Say?

As well as illustrating a general increase in Cannabis use among this demographic, researchers were also able to isolate changes in more specific groups. They found that Cannabis use increased significantly, particularly among women, and those who were college/university-educated and had higher incomes.

Cannabis use also increased across all races and ethnic groups. Of the respondents, 55% were male, and 77% were white.

Why is Cannabis Use Rising?

The authors of the study acknowledge that increased legalisation of Cannabis across the United States may play a part in the rise. During the three-year period of the analysed data, a number of states legalised some form of Cannabis.

This includes four states (California, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Nevada) which legalised adult-use recreational Cannabis; and seven states (Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Oklahoma).

However, the authors believe that the causes of the increase are much more nuanced. Co-author Joseph J. Palamar claims that the authors “don’t think increases in use are due to legalization, although increasing social acceptability, in general, might have helped drive these increases.”

He continued:

“I think a lot of older people are hearing more and more about potential medical uses and many of these people are willing to try it out to see how it works.”

The study shows that the increase may have been fuelled by perceived health benefits associated with Cannabis. The data showed that Cannabis use among seniors with diabetes increased by 180% from 2015 to 2018. Use also increased by almost 96% among those with chronic illnesses, and by over 150% among those who received mental health treatment.

Although research around the health benefits or Cannabis is quickly becoming more common, clinical evidence remains limited. Therefore, the researchers stress that “people need to make sure they are educated about the drugs they use.”

Many have turned to Cannabis as a replacement for traditional medications, such as opioids for pain management.


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