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Grandma is getting high: Why do seniors consume cannabis?

Barbara Krause makes a purchase at Vela Cannabis in Seattle, Washington on March 16, 2017. Krause was part of a group from Sound Vista Village, an assisted living facility in Gig Harbor, that visited Vela Cannabis. (Photo by David Ryder)

If you’re used to finding home-baked cookies in your grandma’s pantry, don’t be surprised if you find other goodies these days. Seniors have identified themselves as some of the most enthusiast cannabis users in the US, while their existence in the world of marijuana still flies under the radar.

Why did cannabis achieve such a good foothold among older adults? How are the senior cannabis aficionados hoping to learn from marijuana, and how do they fit into contemporary cannabis cultivation?

Although commonality often unites cannabis users irrespective of age, new work offers fresh insight into cannabis usage by those in their sixties, seventies, and older generations.

Why now, Why weed?

For certain senior users, the impetus to pursue weed is less about giggling and more about treatment. The latest work released in the April 2020 edition of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry investigates the reasons why older adults resort to marijuana. The research, based on the results of a survey completed by 568 patients at the geriatric clinic in La Jolla, California, set out to learn more about the cannabis habits of seniors, the desired effects, and the perceived utility of the drug.

According to Kevin Yang, the first author of the report and a medical student at the University of California, San Diego, the survey shows both familiar and innovative perspectives. “We find that 10% of older adults registered cannabis use in the past six months,” said Yang in an interview, with the vast majority turning to it for medicinal purposes.

“The most common explanations for cannabis use included discomfort, sleeping difficulties, and anxiety, which is unsurprising, considering that these are widespread symptoms encountered by older adults. We also found that 43% reported using cannabis for more than one condition, “said Yang. Of those who used marijuana to help relieve fear, 70% felt that it was highly or moderately beneficial to soothe their concerns.

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 Victor Guadagnino, founder of the Keystone Canna Remedies clinic in Pennsylvania, states that many older adults going through his pharmacy doors are searching for something fresh and fun to apply to their health programme.

Senior patients attend the pharmacy believing that it will mitigate the continuing concern that conventional pharmaceuticals have seen no success in their care. “Arthritis, neuropathy, fatigue, and oddly, irritability are some of the most common disorders we experience,” Guadagnino said. “Most are looking to witness mood-lifting or mood-enhancing effects, along with therapeutic symptom relief. We also hear the suggestion that they would like to be comfortable. “There is increasing knowledge of marijuana that it can be of assistance between the sheets. Cannabis may be a valuable component in encouraging sexuality in older people, helping to alleviate discomfort and increasing comfort and pleasure. Brands such as Foria Wellness specifically cater to senior customers, urging them to recover and enjoy individuality with CBD-infused lubricants and oils.

Seasoned smokers or First time at the rodeo?

Yang and his fellow researchers observed that almost three-fifths of the cannabis patients surveyed were consuming cannabis for the first time as older adults. “These people were a special group,” Yang explained. “New customers were more likely to use cannabis for medical uses, to use it topically as a lotion rather than to eat it through smoking or edibles, and to tell their doctor about their usage of cannabis.” While many dispensary patients are newbies, Guadagnino stressed that some of them are rediscovering the plant: “Many of our senior patients tend to be brand new to cannabis. There is a small amount who used it in the ’60s and ’70s” and come to his dispensary who prefer topicals and tinctures instead fo marijuana flower. Their ease of dosing and minimal psychoactivity makes it harder to find a “sweet spot.” This ability to play with marijuana throws stereotyping of stuffy senior citizens out of the window. It’s worth acknowledging that many of today’s seniors have come of age during the Vietnam War protests, the sexual revolution, and the civil rights movement.

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As one author has noted, a more responsive approach to marijuana usage and higher levels of lifelong opioid use than prior generations have followed the Baby Boomer generation as older adults. The consequence could be an open-mindedness to play with marijuana later in life.

Seniors and the Cannabis culture

Many dispensaries strive to be inclusive canna-curious spaces, regardless of age. “Most seniors are surprised when they visit a dispensary for the first time, as it is often not what they expected,” Guadagnino said. “You will often see a senior patient discussing a particular product with a 20-year-old cannabis enthusiast. You don’t see this combination of people in any other industry, and the uniqueness of cannabis is that it puts us together. “Ian Ropke, 60, travel guide, was concerned about the opportunity to play with cannabis. “Over the last five years, I began learning about weed and using it after hearing about medical marijuana,” Ropke said. “In the eyes of all nations and governments, I felt it was secure and appropriate. And, yeah, I was intrigued about the positive vibes that cannabis could produce. “As a recovering addict, Ropke was interested in finding a certain type of high to help him improve his faith and artistic activities, but noticed that cannabis often promised other benefits. “Better weed will offer people a special way to relax, giggle and have new discussions when shared with good friends and family,” Ropke said.

Cannabis society is synonymous with youth. To Ropke, the scene accepts adults, although he acknowledges that they take part in cannabis differently. “Seniors usually don’t hang out alone in a park or downtown to smoke pot. When marijuana is dosed as medicine for relaxation and pain relief, consumption is almost entirely private and takes place at home, “he said.

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That said, Ropke often enjoys cannabis individually in social environments. “I like to smoke weed along with my herbal smoking tobacco, and I’ve always noticed that clear water pipes are perfect for social events,” he says.

Senior and cannabis. What does the future hold?

Cannabis use by seniors is expected to continue to increase. “With more states allowing cannabis usage for both medicinal and recreational uses, we are expected to see a rise in the use of cannabis by older adults,” said Yang. He claims that cannabis can be a supplement for medically prescription medications and may also be a better solution to therapies such as heroin and benzodiazepines.

“It is likely that cannabis, when used medicinally, may help to minimize polypharmacy in older people,” he added. In light of the findings of the poll, which indicates that seniors resort to cannabis for pain, depression, and anxiety, Yang expects more users to say that it leads to a better quality of life.

However, more work is required to establish a more comprehensive view of this population and its particular needs. “Only then can we better understand the possible advantages and dangers of cannabis and thus be able to reliably counsel older adults on cannabis use,” Yang said.