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The Changing Face of Cannabis Use

While some might assume that most marijuana users tend to be in their 20s, studies suggest that seniors are the fastest-growing segment of cannabis users.

It makes sense, especially when you consider how cannabis products may be just as popular for their medicinal properties as they are for their recreational allure. While plenty of people use marijuana for its psychoactive effects on the mind, many others use it to alleviate their chronic pain, reduce their anxiety, and minimize any inflammation they may be dealing with — the cannabis plant has been known to alleviate these ailments in seniors.

And when it comes to seniors, medical ailments tend to be on the rise, prompting those over a certain age to seek out various medicines — including cannabis — to help them deal with their medical issues, as well as to enjoy on a recreational basis. This, however, has brought controversial issues to light as many disagree with the use of cannabis products for medicinal purposes — many still believe the only reason people use marijuana is because of the psychoactive effects that "stoners" seek out.

The Changing Face of Cannabis Use

The stereotypical youngster hippie whose sole mission is to get stoned is no longer the archetype of cannabis users. These days, with the explosion in popularity of cannabis and its versatility and far-reaching uses, people from all walks of life, age, and socio-economic status use cannabis for a variety of reasons. And the senior demographic is no exception.

While cannabis may long have been popular among young people, and continues to be, other demographics are picking up speed in terms of cannabis use. More specifically, studies show that the biggest spike in cannabis use is among those aged 50 years or over. Further, people aged 65 years and over have been found to use marijuana the most among those in the older adult population.

Those aged 65 years and older have become increasingly supportive of legalizing cannabis on a federal level, both for medical and recreational purposes, according to the 2018 General Social Survey. And they're showing it by their increased use of cannabis. 

From 2007 to 2017, cannabis use among Americans over the age of 65 increased tenfold, from 0.3% to 3.7%. By 2050, it's expected that marijuana users in the 65-and-over age bracket will increase to approximately 83.7 million people.

Right now, recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and medical cannabis is legal in 33 states. With more and more states legalizing marijuana in some form or fashion, the number of older adults using it is expected to increase over the near future. 

Obviously, many seniors are not interested in breaking the law to use marijuana. But the legalization of cannabis across the nation has lifted these barriers and diminished any inhibitions they may have had. The result is a dramatic increase in the use of marijuana among all demographics, including baby boomers. 

One particular study conducted among older individuals in Colorado found that 54% of seniors who use marijuana use it for both medical and recreational purposes. And while this particular study was confined to just Colorado, it paints a picture of cannabis users across the nation, as continued studies on the positive effects of cannabis on health and wellness will have implications on a national level.

This could have major implications in the medical industry, as more and more seniors opt for cannabis to alleviate many of their medical issues with cannabis instead of — or as a complement to — traditional pharmaceutical medications. 

While cannabis is still stigmatized in some areas, it's certainly gaining plenty of support in many others. And the fact that it's gaining popularity among seniors is a testament to this. With continued and increasing support for cannabis, more pressure will likely be put on lawmakers in illegal states — as well as on a federal level — to remove cannabis from the list of illegal substances. 

Many cannabis users may have already had their hand in marijuana since using it back in the 1960s and 1970s. But since then, many of them have perhaps given up using recreational marijuana in the name of "growing up" and becoming more mature adults.

Yet what many have realized is that cannabis is much more than just a recreational substance that they can use to get high and have a good time, which is likely what was the main draw for them back in their youth. Now, as seniors with an increased number of health issues, many have turned back to cannabis for medical reasons and have found the substance to be just as attractive as a natural health product as it was as a recreational substance. And some may have never given it up at all.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum: older cannabis users who are only now starting to dabble in medical cannabis in an effort to avoid being totally dependent on pharmaceuticals for treating chronic pain or discomfort stemming from various ailments.

They may have never used cannabis before, but are starting to realize its effectiveness in helping them manage their symptoms without having to rely so heavily on traditional medications or more drastic measures.

Why is Cannabis Use So Popular Among Seniors?

As already mentioned, aging tends to come with the onset of ailments that may never have been experienced in youth. With age typically comes various health issues that accompany an aging body, and such ailments often require treatment to keep seniors comfortable. 

And while there are always pharmaceuticals that can be taken, cannabis may be a more attractive option, whether as an alternative or a supplement to traditional treatments. 

Some of the ailments that seniors may suffer from that may be effectively dealt with through the use of medical cannabis may include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Inflammation
  • Joint pain from arthritis and similar conditions
  • Nausea from cancer treatments
  • Appetite regulation
  • Seizures from neurological issues
  • Muscle spasticity from cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, etc
  • Alzheimer’s disease

How Can Seniors Consume Cannabis Other Than Smoking it?

While seniors can always smoke medical cannabis — and many do — others may not be too keen on consuming it in this fashion, especially those who are new to this world. Plus, elderly individuals who already suffer from upper respiratory issues or other medical problems may completely rule out smoking marijuana.

So, what other ways can older individuals use medical cannabis to treat various ailments they may be suffering from?

Pills/capsules — A simple way to consume and measure medical cannabis is through capsules and pills, which are already precisely dosed and can be easily and discreetly taken with ease.

Tinctures/oils — Cannabis tinctures and oils can be administered directly under the tongue to take fast effect in the body, particularly when quick relief is needed. They can also be added to drinks and food recipes.

Topicals — Those suffering from localized pain, such as in the joints, may find cannabis topicals particularly useful. They can be applied topically to the skin in specific areas where pain and inflammation are experienced.

Vape pens — An alternative to smoking, vaping cannabis involves heating the compounds just enough to be inhaled without actually burning them, as is the case with smoking.

Edibles — Medical cannabis users can consume cannabis compounds through edibles, including gummies, candies, cookies, and beverages. 

Suppositories — Those who suffer from ailments that make it difficult or impossible to swallow can take advantage of medical cannabis’s healing properties through suppositories. 

The New Generation of Cannabis

The use of medical cannabis is on the rise, and considering that its use among seniors has spiked tenfold over the past decade in an effort to tame various ailments, such demand doesn't seem to be dwindling any time soon.

With continued legalization of marijuana in states across the nation, barriers continue to be broken down, giving consumers — including seniors — more incentive to seek out marijuana as an alternative to pharmaceuticals.

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