Among a nationally representative sample of US adults ages 65 and older, the percentage of older adults “who believe that people who smoke cannabis once or twice a week are at great risk of harming themselves physically and in other ways” decreased nearly 20 percent between the years 2015 and 2019.
An increasing percentage of older adults are turning to the use of cannabis exclusively for therapeutic purposes
In a survey of Medicare recipients, 21 percent of respondents reported that they were current users of cannabis for medical purposes. Survey respondents were most likely to report using cannabis products to address symptoms of anxiety, chronic pain, depression, glaucoma, and HIV/AIDS.
Among a cohort of seniors (ages 65 or older) residing in a legal state (California), 78 percent of those who reported consuming cannabis within the past three years defined their use as medical. “Most older adults in the sample initiated [their] cannabis use after the age of 60 years and used it primarily for medical purposes to treat pain, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and/or depression.”
An increasing body of scientific data shows that the use of cannabis by older adults is associated with improvements in their overall quality of life
“In this prospective study, we describe the characteristics and outcomes of approximately 10,000 patients treated with medical cannabis. … Quality of life (QOL) was assessed both at intake and at 6 months in 4,143 patients. While only 12.9% of patients reported good QOL prior to treatment initiation, 69.9% reported good QOL at 6 months. … Results showed high adherence, high safety with a low incidence of adverse events, and a high rate of effectiveness in the prescribed treatment, as well as a decrease in pain levels, improvement in QOL, and a reduction in the consumption of concomitant medications.”
“We collected surveys from individuals aged 60 and older enrolled in the Illinois Medical Cannabis Patient Program. … Veterans were more likely to use cannabis for mental health conditions. … Veterans also reported desirable health outcomes of cannabis use for pain, sleep quality, health conditions, and quality of life.”
“We investigated older adults’ perceptions and experiences of medical cannabis use to treat and/or manage chronic conditions, specifically as a substitute for prescription drugs. … [Study participants] reported satisfaction with being able to use medical cannabis to manage symptoms, get relief from pain, and have an improved quality of life all while lessening their dependence on pharmaceutical drugs.”
“Cross-sectional data from anonymous surveys were collected from 139 persons over the age of 60 using medical cannabis in the past year. … We identified a strong positive association between higher frequency of cannabis use and improvement to HRQL [health-related quality of life] and HCU [health-care utilization] scores. … Our regression modeling also identified a strong positive relationship between higher frequency of cannabis use and self-reported improvements to pain symptoms. The positive relationship between near-daily use and improved reports offers further evidence of the perceived value of medical cannabis as a therapeutic approach for pain management.”
“We describe patterns of recreational and medical marijuana use and self-reported health among older persons using a geographically sampled survey in Colorado. … [S]urveyed older persons aged more than 60 who have legal access to recreational and medical marijuana described multiple patterns of use of marijuana in the past year, and the majority felt that marijuana use had an overall positive impact on their quality of life.”
“We aimed to assess the characteristics of elderly people using medical cannabis and to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the treatment. … During the study period, 2736 patients above 65 years of age began cannabis treatment and answered the initial questionnaire. The mean age was 74.5 ± 7.5 years. … After six months of treatment, 93.7 percent of the respondents reported improvement in their condition, and the reported pain level was reduced from a median of 8 on a scale of 0-10 to a median of 4. [Most patients also reported] “a significant improvement in [their] overall quality of life. … Our study finds that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and efficacious in the elderly population.”
Cannabis use by older subjects is associated with greater rates of physical activity
“Data were obtained from the 2005–2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. A total of 2,092 participants (ages 20–59; 48.8% female) had accelerometer-measured sedentary behavior, light physical activity, and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Participants were classified as light, moderate, frequent, or non-current cannabis users depending on how often they used cannabis in the previous 30 days. … Frequent cannabis users engaged in more physical activity than non-current users. … Findings tended to be stronger among adults over 40 and those who did not smoke cigarettes. … Our findings do not support the mainstream perception of cannabis users as living sedentary lifestyles.”
“We measured differences in body mass index (BMI), exercise behavior, and cardiovascular fitness between older adult cannabis users and nonusers participating in an exercise intervention trial. … Results of this analysis indicated that compared to older adult non-users, older adult cannabis users had lower BMI at the beginning of an exercise intervention study, engaged in more weekly exercise days during the intervention, and were engaging in more exercise-related activities at the conclusion of the intervention. Although preliminary, these findings suggest that it may be easier for older adults who endorse using cannabis to increase and maintain their exercise behavior, potentially because cannabis users have lower body weight than their non-using peers. At minimum, the evidence suggests that cannabis use does not hinder older adults’ ability to engage in physical activity, to participate in a supervised exercise program, or to increase their fitness as a result of physical activity.”