A study recently published by the University of California San Diego (UCSD) shows that cannabis-related issues are skyrocketing among senior citizens.
The study states that cannabis-related ER visits for Californians age 65+ was just 366 in 2005. Fast forward to 2019 and the number went to 12,167 (a 3,200% increase). In California, cannabis became legal for medicinal use in 1996, and recreational use was legalized in 2016.
Researchers say that more and more older adults are experimenting with cannabis to alleviate chronic symptoms, but many are just curious and want to explore the substance that for so long had been taboo and illegal.
The study's author noted, “Many patients assume they aren’t going to have adverse side-effects from cannabis because they often don’t view it as seriously as they would a prescription drug,” said Dr. Benjamin Han said. “I do see a lot of older adults who are overly confident, saying they know how to handle it — yet as they have gotten older, their bodies are more sensitive, and the concentrations are very different from what they may have tried when they were younger.”
According to a news release issued by UCSD the study has found that older adults "are at a higher risk for adverse health effects associated with psychoactive substances." Researchers also advise caution, "Cannabis can slow reaction time and impair attention, which may lead to injuries and falls; increase the risk for psychosis, delirium and paranoia; exacerbate cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and interact with other prescription medications."
Study authors encourage medical professionals to discuss cannabis use with their older patients so that they can discuss potential health risks.