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Study Finds Older Adults Use Cannabis to Treat Common Health Conditions

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A new study from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine found that older adults use cannabis for medicinal purposes to treat common health conditions such as pain, sleep disturbances and psychiatric conditions like anxiety and depression.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found out of 568 surveyed patients, 15 percent reported they had used cannabis in the past three years, with half of the users reporting regular use mostly for medical purposes. Patients surveyed were seen at the Medicine for Seniors Clinic at UC San Diego Health over a 10-week period. The researchers also found 61 percent of patients who used cannabis began using cannabis after the age of 60.

“Pain, insomnia and anxiety were the most common reasons for cannabis use and, for the most part, patients reported that cannabis was helping to address these issues, especially with insomnia and pain,” said Christopher Kaufmann, PhD, co-first author of the study and assistant professor in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine at UCSD.

Recent data shows more seniors over the age of 65 are turning to cannabis to treat common health conditions. In 2006, 0.4 percent of seniors aged 65 or older stated that they consume cannabis. By 2015 that number had doubled, and it doubled again in 2018. Cannabis use among baby boomers and other older adults has continued to rise in an upward trend as more states are allowing legal recreational cannabis.

The researchers said future studies are needed to better understand the safety of cannabis in treating common health conditions in older adults to both maximize effectiveness and to minimize harm. Another study has already found cannabis use isn’t associated with cognitive problems in older adults.

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