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What do older adults use recreational cannabis for?

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Ever wondered how the legalization of recreational cannabis has impacted older adults? Apparently, older adults use cannabis mainly for medicinal purposes but buy it from recreational retailers without prescription – suggests a recent UBC study. (1)

What are the most common usages?

The study conducted by researchers at UBC Vancouver‘s School of Nursing involved 12 adults aged 71 to 85. Every participant had one or many medical diagnoses such as arthritis, high blood pressure and insomnia.

In accordance with this study, a 2019 Statistics Canada report suggests that older adults who are new users of cannabis are often using it for medicinal purposes. (2) Research shows that older adults use cannabis for pain or sleep. Many use cannabis products as an alternative to certain prescription drugs. There is a craze of trying out cannabis and finding out if it would work for them. “I’d been to a chiropractor, I’d been to a physio. I’d never done that before in my life … so I guess I thought, well, in for a penny, in for a pound. I’m going to a chiropractor. What – you know, sitting around in his office and – with all the other nuts – why don’t I try [cannabis]?”, said a 71-year-old male participant.

What type of cannabis products do older adults take and does it meet their expectations?

Contrary to smoking cannabis or eating edibles, older adults prefer ingesting cannabis in the form of oil, tincture drops or oil capsules. Topical creams are extremely popular as well. Interestingly, such methods of consumption help them control and track their doses which wouldn’t be easy with smoking cannabis.

Using cannabis makes most older adults feel positive and satisfied with the effects. But because many products contain THC at certain levels, it often leaves people with an unwanted high. “I was assured that this was a sort of starter dose and it would just affect arthritis. But in fact, I did get high, and it worked very well for arthritis, I’ll say that. But I also did get high and I didn’t really want to,” reported a 73-year-old woman patient.

How do older adults obtain cannabis?

According to the study, most older adults obtain their cannabis from licensed or non-licensed stores without any prescription. They find fewer product options in licensed stores, can you believe it? Only one participant bought it from a pharmacy using a prescription. Many rely on others to get their cannabis. Very often they get their cannabis from recreational stores that offer medicinal products as well.  “I tried the licensed place, and they said recreational. And then when I was Googling it, um, a lot of them said recreational, and if it did say medicinal, it wasn’t, um, topical. It was, like, medicinal but ingesting it,” said a 76-year-old woman participant. Confusions about licensed and unlicensed stores along with recreational and medicinal cannabis are very common among older adults.

This could possibly be because of the fact that their source of information are friends and acquaintances, cannabis store employees and the multiple forms of media because family physicians lack enough information on cannabis or do not support cannabis usage, the study points out. Well, this explains why many don’t use a prescription to buy cannabis products.

Footnote(s)

Jennifer Baumbusch & Isabel Sloan Yip (2021) Exploring New Use of Cannabis among Older Adults, Clinical Gerontologist, 44:1, 25-31, DOI: 10.1080/07317115.2020.1746720
Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. “The Daily — National Cannabis Survey, Third Quarter 2019.” Www150.Statcan.gc.ca, 30 Oct. 2019, www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/191030/dq191030a-eng.htm?HPA=1.





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