Here’s why marijuana use is on the rise among older adults, study finds

Five Fast Facts: Marijuana

Previous studies have shown marijuana use is on the rise among young adults, but it's also becoming more prevalent with a group on the other end of the age spectrum,  according to a new report.

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Researchers from New York University recently conducted a study, published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal, to explore the trends of recreational drug use among baby boomers.

To do so, they used data from the 2015-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which gathered responses about marijuana use from more than 17,000 adults aged 50 and older. The participants were asked when they first used it and whether they used it in the past year, among other questions.

After analyzing the results, they found 9 percent of adults aged 50-64 and 2.9 percent of adults 65 and older reported using marijuana. Furthermore, more than half of adults 50-64 and nearly a quarter of adults 65 and older said they used cannabis at some point in their lives.

"The baby boomer generation grew up during a period of significant cultural change, including a surge in popularity of marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s. We're now in a new era of changing attitudes around marijuana, and as stigma declines and access improves, it appears that baby boomers—many of whom have prior experience smoking marijuana—are increasingly using it," lead author Benjamin Han said in a statement.

Although some of the adults said a doctor recommended they use marijuana, which has been shown to have benefits in treating certain conditions, the analysts were concerned about the correlation between marijuana use and other unhealthy substance use.

Those who used marijuana were more likely to abuse alcohol, cocaine and prescription drugs.

“Certain older adults may be at heightened risk for adverse effects associated with marijuana use, particularly if they have certain underlying chronic diseases or are also engaged in unhealthy substance use,” Han added.

Researchers suggest that doctors screen older adults who use marijuana for other substance use to make sure patients are educated on the potential risks of using multiple drugs.

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