When legalization first began to take hold across the USA and Canada, concerns about an increase in teenage use made it onto the tongues of naysayers, only to be disproved when there was no correlation between legalization and cannabis use.
No one had their eyes on the group who were actually rising as the fastest growing demographic of cannabis users: senior citizens. Yes, folks, your parents and grandparents are the demographic that is most contributing to the gold rush.
There are a few factors that explain an increase in cannabis use amongst seniors. Some are more obvious, like demographic shifts and medical uses for cannabis, but other factors that lead to this increase may be just as simple as seniors just liking their cannabis.
Here is an overview of how people in their Golden Years are using cannabis, and the medical community is supporting them, during this highly transitionary period of life.
Moving from Opioids to Cannabis
The opioid crisis is one that every single demographic is vulnerable to fall into, but sadly, seniors are more susceptible to opioid dependence. Despite making up only 13% of the population, it was estimated in 2013 that 55% of prescriptions written in the USA were for seniors, experiencing a dramatic increase over the last two decades. We can only imagine how this number has grown in these last 5 years as the opioid epidemic gets worse in many areas. Sadly, emergency room report analyses show the over 65 crowd as the group most likely to visit the hospital with adverse reactions to prescription pills.
Seniors are now catching on to cannabis as an alternative to prescription pills, recognizing that medical cannabis can help with some of the side effects of common medical ailments.
Strainprint, an app that we featured earlier when examining cannabis and technology, reported that data collected through their app revealed users over 65 turned to cannabis for joint pain, insomnia, stress, and anxiety.
Finding Cannabis’ Place in Senior’s Health Care
Medical cannabis doctors are encouraged by the way cannabis can affect seniors’ health. A doctor of a small city called Sarnia, Ontario in Canada has been working with patients within a local long-term residence and retirement home to see where he can substitute CBD drops for various pharmaceuticals.
These medical approaches within formal elderly care settings will only solidify the place of cannabis in geriatric healthcare.
The Benefits of Cannabis on the Aging Brain
In addition to the benefits of cannabis on the body, there is quite a bit of excitement being built within the cannabis community about the ways cannabis can restore parts of the brain. It’s been widely studied in relation to its potential for treating symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases, Epilepsy and Multiple Sclerosis, with most of these explorations being based on the hope of reversing and rejuvenating the cells in the brain, damaged through these neuro diseases.
Emerging research is also looking at the potential for THC to reverse the aging process in the brain. A study that was published in Nature Medicine examined the effects of small amounts of THC on elderly mice. He observed that the mice who were under the influence of THC had better memory recollection, prompting the principal investigator to want to start a study examining the effects of THC on the aging human brain.
Cannabis and Spirituality in the Golden Years
The Oov team believes wholly in the spiritual benefits of cannabis, and see the growing use of cannabis in our senior populations as positive, believing that cannabis can provide important mental and emotional benefits in a highly transitionary period of life.
While they’re called the “Golden Years”, the later decades in life can be some of the most challenging, with transitioning through menopause, moving into retirement, increase in chances of illness, spousal loss, and transitions from homes to supported living. We can’t underestimate that these life events can be highly traumatic and cause stress, anxiety, and depression in many cases. This is where the emergent dialogue on the use of cannabis for mental health can be highly beneficial to this crucial demographic.
Recreational Use Amongst Seniors
Since working directly in the cannabis industry, I’ve come to realize that there are actually a lot of seniors who use cannabis for recreational purposes but just won’t admit it. I’ve had quite a few jaw-drops as I’ve received messages from intergenerational friends who have told me about their long-time cannabis use.
We simply can’t forget that the people we deem “seniors” made up the demographic of Flower Children, festival-goers, widespread cannabis use, and for many, more mind-expanding substances. For some, cannabis use wasn’t “just a phase” and as cannabis becomes more accepted in society, you may be surprised to see people who look like your parents or grandparents joining you in line at your local dispensary as laws and stigma shifts.
As more information continues to hit the news about the health risks of heavy alcohol consumption in terms of cancers, heart diseases, and other serious illnesses, seniors may now look to legal cannabis for their buzz when they want to imbibe. We know that legal cannabis poses a huge threat to the alcohol industry as more discover the health benefits of cannabis as an alternative to the potential damages of alcohol and more approaches to alcoholism are using cannabis substitution.
Puff, Puff, Pass to Mom or Grandpa
One thing can’t be denied: Baby Boomers and seniors are an important part of our communities and they face unique health and social circumstances where cannabis can be a beneficial supplement and support. Talk to your parents and grandparents about cannabis.
Use what you know about cannabis to explore whether cannabis has a place in their lives. You may be surprised what they reveal, and soon enough, you never know, you may be puff, puff, passing to your Mom or Grandpa.