The demographic experiencing the most rapid surge in cannabis usage within the United States is the baby boomer generation. This group, which holds an impressive $140 trillion of the nation’s wealth, has captured the interest of analysts and researchers. These experts are delving into the reasons behind and extent of marijuana consumption among the 73 million individuals in this cohort.
In addressing one aspect of this inquiry, it becomes apparent that seniors born between 1946 and 1964, who collectively possess $78.3 trillion in assets, have taken a keen interest in cannabis, particularly over the past eight years, where their consumption has tripled.
Focused on this particular segment of marijuana enthusiasts, scientists have directed their attention and discovered that consuming whole-plant cannabis, adhering to the traditional approach surprisingly, does not detrimentally affect cognitive function. In reality, it has the opposite effect.
A study at the University of Colorado Boulder delved into the repercussions of cannabis usage among adults aged 60 to 88, all with no history of alcohol or other substance abuse.
The researchers observed that while elevated levels of THC can yield adverse impacts on the developing adolescent brain, a contrary outcome emerges in the context of older brains.
Notably, senior individuals who engage with cannabis exhibited notably enhanced neural communication between the cerebellum and hippocampus in comparison to their non-using counterparts.
The progressive alterations in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), an intricate cellular communication system in the brain and body responsible for maintaining equilibrium, encompass a decline in cannabinoid receptors dispersed throughout the brain. This decline is concomitant with heightened levels of inflammation within the brain, a circumstance linked to potential neuronal attrition in the hippocampus—a vital region dedicated to learning and memory preservation, wherein neuronal losses are decidedly undesirable.
An unaffiliated researcher, Gary Wenk, Ph.D., said, “Utilizing low-dose, daily cannabis consumption beyond 55 may effectively counteract the deteriorative consequences stemming from persistent brain inflammation.”
Throughout the past decade of coverage about medicinal cannabis, a recurring revelation that has consistently astounded me is the sense of optimism, the potentiality, and the constructive influence that prudently regulated cannabis employment can exert, even among elderly individuals, thereby enhancing their overall quality of life,” articulated Dr. Gupta.
In the latest episode of “The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper,” Dr. Gupta is set to unveil his acclaimed cannabis documentary series titled “Weed 7: A Senior Moment.” This installment will examine the advantages and potential drawbacks of cannabis usage in addressing persistent challenges like pain, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease among individuals aged 50 and above.
Joseph Palamar, a New York University Langone Medical Center professor, examined information from 17,608 adults aged 50 or older. These adults took a survey about using drugs and feeling different emotions. The government has done this survey every year since 1971 in all the states and the capital city.
The survey participants had to answer questions about smoking, drinking, and using drugs. They also said things about themselves, like their age and health.
The scientists looked at information from 2015-16 and 2006-07. They compared the people who used marijuana with the ones who didn’t, and they did this for different ages and times. They found that about 9% of grown-ups in the middle-aged group used marijuana in the past year, and about 2.9% of older adults did. About 5.7% of middle-aged grown-ups used it for the past month, and about 1.7% of older adults did.
Dr. Benjamin Han, who led the study and worked at the New York University School of Medicine, shared that their research found higher rates of lousy substance use among adults who also use marijuana. These substances include alcohol, tobacco, and misuse of prescription drugs. The researchers focused on the middle-aged and older demographic.
The study showed that around 5% of middle-aged people who use marijuana had issues drinking too much alcohol. About 9% of them had problems with nicotine use. Also, about 3.5% of these demographic misused their prescription pain pill. Among older adults, the numbers were a bit lower. About 1.5% had trouble with drinking, 3.5% needed nicotine, and 1.2% misusing opioids.
The study also said that, besides opioids, people who used marijuana in the past year were more likely not to use prescription sedatives and calming medicines the right way compared to those who didn’t use marijuana.
Han explained that when older adults with chronic illnesses use multiple substances, especially in an unhealthy way, it becomes quite risky. Marijuana might worsen their health problems and even interact with their prescribed medications.
Palamar pointed out the impact can be much more powerful depending on the drug combination. “If you mix marijuana with alcohol, the effects can hit you hard, especially if you didn’t anticipate such a strong reaction,” he mentioned.
According to the study authors, baby boomers possess a greater level of familiarity with marijuana compared to preceding generations. The research conducted by Han and Palamar reveals that just under 55% of middle-aged adults have engaged with marijuana at some point in their lives. In comparison, approximately 22% of older adults have also done so.
As an increasing number of states legalize both medical and recreational marijuana, healthcare professionals are encountering a dilemma, as noted by Han. He mentioned, “I am increasingly faced with inquiries from older patients about the potential benefits of trying marijuana, often for sleep or pain relief.” Han, specializing in geriatric medicine, emphasized, “While marijuana might hold therapeutic potential for addressing various symptoms and medical conditions, the available research in this realm remains extremely limited.”
Further investigation is essential to understand the potential risks and advantages associated with marijuana usage among these specific age cohorts. This includes the need for additional insights regarding safety, optimal dosing, preferred administration methods (such as inhalation or ingestion), and the array of symptoms it may address, as highlighted by Han.
However, healthcare providers present challenges in confidently endorsing marijuana use, particularly outside of distinct clinical scenarios when compared to thoroughly researched alternative options. Han emphasized, “This is particularly true considering our incomplete grasp of the potential hazards it may pose to older adults or those managing multiple chronic medical conditions.”
Another factor of concern is the potential legal ramifications that baby boomers might encounter if they reside in a jurisdiction where marijuana remains prohibited, as pointed out by Palamar.
In conclusion, the evolving landscape of marijuana use among middle-aged and older adults demands further exploration into its risks and benefits. While the potential therapeutic applications of marijuana are recognized, the current shortage of comprehensive research limits healthcare providers’ ability to recommend its use, particularly in comparison to more extensively studied alternatives.
Addressing safety, dosing, administration methods, and potential legal considerations will be crucial in making informed decisions about marijuana’s role in addressing the needs of these age groups. As the medical and legal landscapes continue to evolve, a more thorough understanding of the implications of marijuana use for older adults remains an essential area of investigation. (Full Story)