Re­searchers worry as data lags on use by older adults

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kris­ten Wy­att

Sur­veys show a small but grow­ing num­ber of older adults are us­ing mar­i­juana — a trend that wor­ries re­searchers who say not enough in­for­ma­tion ex­ists about how pot af­fects older users.

Abun­dant re­search has been done on how the drug af­fects de­vel­op­ing brains, but lit­tle is known about the po­ten­tial con­se­quences on older users — even as re­cre­ation pot has been le­gal­ized in a num­ber of states.

Re­searchers at New York Univer­sity say pot could pose health chal­lenges to older users rang­ing from mem­ory loss to risk of fall­ing.

The re­searchers reviewed data from the Na­tional Sur­vey on Drug Use and Health and found a big in­crease in adults over 50 re­port­ing they had used pot in the past year.

About 2.8 per­cent of those sur­veyed said they had used pot a decade ago. Six years later, in 2013, the rate was about 4.8 per­cent — a 71 per­cent jump.

“His­tor­i­cally older peo­ple haven’t had high rates of sub­stance use, but this is chang­ing,” said Dr. Ben­jamin Han, a geri­a­tri­cian at NYU who led the study pub­lished this week in the jour­nal Ad­dic­tion.

“As baby boomers age, we’re go­ing to see more and more of this.”

Older adults are still much less likely than younger peo­ple to use pot. In the 2013 sur­vey, about 19 per­cent of peo­ple 18 to 25 re­ported us­ing mar­i­juana in the pre­vi­ous month.

Doc­tors have lit­tle to go on when treat­ing older peo­ple who use pot, Han said.

“When it comes to, for in­stance, al­co­hol, there have been a lot of stud­ies about ef­fects on older pop­u­la­tions, guide­lines on how much older peo­ple should be con­sum­ing,” Han said. “But when it comes to mar­i­juana, we have noth­ing.”

The study drew no con­clu­sions about whether older pot users are us­ing the drug as medicine or for fun.

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