Marijuana is fast becoming a favorite medication among older Americans, a new study finds.
Cannabis is being used to ease problems such as pain, sleep disturbances and psychiatric conditions like anxiety and depression, researchers say.
Among more than 550 patients surveyed, 15% had used cannabis within the past three years, and 50% of users said they used it regularly and mostly for medical purposes.
"Pain, insomnia and anxiety were the most common reasons for cannabis use and, for the most part, patients reported that cannabis was helping to address these issues, especially with insomnia and pain," said researcher Christopher Kaufmann. He's an assistant professor in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.
Also, 61% of the patients who used cannabis had started using it after age 60.
"Surprisingly, we found that nearly three-fifths of cannabis users reported using cannabis for the first time as older adults. These individuals were a unique group compared to those who used cannabis in the past," said researcher Kevin Yang, a third-year medical student at UCSD.
"New users were more likely to use cannabis for medical reasons than for recreation. The route of cannabis use also differed with new users more likely to use it topically as a lotion rather than by smoking or ingesting as edibles. Also, they were more likely to inform their doctor about their cannabis use, which reflects that cannabis use is no longer as stigmatized as it was previously," Yang said in a university news release.
The report was published online recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
"There seems to be potential with cannabis, but we need more evidence-based research," Kaufmann added. "We want to find out how cannabis compares to current medications available. Could cannabis be a safer alternative to treatments, such as opioids and benzodiazepines? Could cannabis help reduce the simultaneous use of multiple medications in older persons?
"We want to find out which conditions cannabis is most effective in treating," Kaufmann said in the release. "Only then can we better counsel older adults on cannabis use."
Harvard University has more on medical marijuana.
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