Baby Boomers Turning to Cannabis as a Medicine

While Millennials and Gen-Xers make up a good chunk of the cannabis market, Baby Boomers are consuming marijuana more frequently than ever before, according to a report published in June.

Marijuana Demographics

According to the study examining patterns of cannabis consumption among Americans aged 50 and older, use increased more than 70 percent between 2006 and 2013. The data also revealed that “a larger proportion of adults in the older adult population used marijuana medicinally in contrast to recreational use.” The review of demographic data compiled between 2000-2017 and analyzed by a team of researchers from the University of Florida was published in the journal Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine.   

Baby Boomers came of age in Age of Aquarius. If you were born between the years of 1945 and 1964, chances are you wore bell-bottoms, watched the Beatles perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and heard Timothy Leary urge his acolytes to “turn on, tune in and drop out.” The familiarity of marijuana – especially among soldiers returning from the Vietnam War – was at its peak. Because of this historic connection, most Boomers simply do not perceive cannabis use as a major health risk. According to the report, 75 percent of older Americans believe regular consumption has no risk or a slight risk.

The study concluded that “the greatest increase in marijuana use was observed among those in the older adult population 50 years or older, and those 65 years or older had the greatest increase in marijuana use among all older users.”

Marijuana Use By Age Group – 50 And Up

Past-year prevalence of marijuana use ranged from 5.6 percent to 9.1 percent among those 50 to 64 years old and 1.3 percent to 2.0 percent among those 65 years or older. The analysis determined that past-year marijuana use by age group, among those 50 to 64 years old increased 10.1 percent annually, and past-year marijuana use among those 65 years or older increased 15.3 percent annually. Prevalence is higher among marijuana users in the 50 to 64 age group; however, the largest increase in use has been found among those 65 years or older.

In another study, it was revealed that cannabis was so effective as a treatment for age-related illnesses that nine out of 10 of seniors recommend it to friends. According to Dr. Diana Martins-Welch, co-author of the study, “the impact of medical marijuana was overwhelmingly positive. Medical marijuana led them to taking less medications overall — opioids and non-opioids — and they had better function and better quality of life.”

Dr. Martins-Welch’s research demonstrates that older cannabis consumers are wary of unwanted side effects, preferring to treat their conditions with low-dose marijuana products. “A lot of people don’t like feeling sleepy,” she said. For Baby Boomers, “the goal with [cannabis] is to find the dose that gives a therapeutic benefit without a high, or slowing reaction time or causing sedation,” Martins-Welch said. “To find that right dose, we start low and go slow.”

The report found roughly half of the seniors sought medical assistance and received a doctor’s medical marijuana recommendation. About 25 percent were introduced to cannabis at the urging of a family member or friend.

When asked how effective cannabis was in reducing pain levels, the seniors reported vast improvement, going from a 9 (on a pain scale of zero to 10) down to 5.6 a month after starting a regimen including cannabis.

What Age Group Uses Marijuana The Most?

“The geriatric population is my fastest-growing patient population. With medical marijuana, I’m taking more patients off opioids,” Dr. Mark Wallace, a board member of the American Pain Society, told WebMD. “There’s never been a reported death from medical marijuana, yet there are 19,000 deaths a year from prescription opioids. Medical cannabis is probably safer than a lot of drugs we give,” Wallace added.

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