A study appeared recently in the United States in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It found that 13 percent of the men aged 60 to 64 surveyed had used cannabis within the last 30 days in 2018, compared to nine percent in 2016. For men aged 65 to 69, there was a doubling, from four to eight percent. Among the seriously old – that’s 70 to 74 – the rate rose from three to six percent. Women showed less of a change.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to eldsters taking cannabis. Photo: Sukanto Debnath

There are both advantages and disadvantages to eldsters taking cannabis. Photo: Sukanto Debnath

Why is this?

Bill Jesdale, a co-author of the study, believes the reasons for more older adults taking cannabis were greater availability and a higher willingness to admit to it and less inhibition against doing it because there’s less stigma. Other possible reasons are that people today prefer more natural medicines, and older adults in particular seek pain relief and aids to sleep that don’t have the significant side-effects of conventional medication.

Young adults are the most prolific users of cannabis. The rise in use among older adults, however, concerns some researchers.

It might mess up other drugs

The issue that concerns medical experts the most is the effect cannabis might have upon conventional medications commonly taken by older people. As a review in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology pointed out, taking cannabis can affect common heart medications. The same liver enzymes that break down statins and blood thinners also break down tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, what gets you stoned), so cannabis can influence their effectiveness. Cannabis could also cause excessive bleeding.

If surgery is a prospect, elderly people should tell their doctors if they’ve been taking cannabis, even if it’s no more than (non-psychoactive) cannabidiol (CBD). They might require more anaesthesia. If cannabis causes lung issues, it could cause breathing problems during surgery. And cannabis raises your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure.

They might fall

Taking cannabis can cause dizziness and feeling out of control of your body. As a result, elderly people are at greater risk of falling or having some other accident. Falling is very bad for them, resulting in head injury or broken bones in a fifth of instances. Mike van Dyke is chief of toxicology for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. He commented that cannabis might raise the risk of falling or having balance problems: “It just hasn’t been studied enough.”

Cannabis might harm the mental state of elderly people . Or it might improve it.

Older people are at more risk of dementia and confusion at the best of times. The THC in cannabis can have unexpected side effects on those who have or might have a psychiatric condition. Of course, there is research showing cognitive functioning improved in cannabis-using elderly people. This is because their sleep and control of pain both got better. Additionally, they could use less regular medications, and these affect thinking.

But cannabis helps the old extend their working lives

Marijuana Use Among Adults 50 Years or Older in the 21st Century was a study published in 2018 in Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. It found that after cannabis for medical purposes became legal, lessening the symptoms of various chronic health conditions and general well-being allowed “older adult workers to increase the amount of time they allocate to paid employment.”

Cannabis also assists elderly people in a number of other ways

The study Characteristics and Patterns of Marijuana Use in Community-Dwelling Older Adults came to light in 2018 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It included an anonymous, voluntary survey of 345 people. 32 percent had used cannabis at some point. Of these, 44 percent used cannabis in some form at least once a week for such common conditions as anxiety, chronic pain, depression and insomnia. Appetite stimulation was another biggie. Cannabis was helpful to most, and only nine percent reported negative side effects, points the study emphasised.


And that’s it. If the elderly are taking cannabis, it might interfere with other drugs. It could cause problems during surgery. It might lead to their falling. And it might impair their mental functioning – or it might improve it. On the other hand, cannabis means eldsters can work for longer and helps them with anxiety, appetite stimulation, chronic pain, depression and insomnia.

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