According to recent research from the University of California, over half of patients who used cannabis did so after they reached age 60. “Surprisingly, we discovered that almost three-fifths of marijuana users began using the drug as older adults. These folks were a distinct group in comparison to prior cannabis users,” explains Kevin Yang, co-first author. “New users were more inclined to utilize cannabis for medical uses than for recreational uses. New users were also more likely to use it topically as a lotion instead of smoking or ingesting it. Also, they were more likely to tell their doctor about their marijuana usage, which suggests that cannabis use is not as stigmatized as it was previously.” According to experts, here are three surprising side effects of marijuana over the age of 55.
1 — Brain Issues
Doctors are concerned that heavy marijuana usage might cause brain damage. “It’s been well established that excessive marijuana use in both young and middle-aged individuals can induce minor cognitive functions, including attention, motor coordination, verbal memory, processing speed, and executive function,” said Marc E. Agronin, MD. “Although these affects may be more unpredictable with decreased usage in elderly people, they may be exacerbated by preexisting brain problems as well as underlying respiratory and cardiovascular issues, especially when medical marijuana is smoked or vaped.”
2 — Dementia Complications
Marijuana has the potential to make dementia patients confused, according to experts. “The psychoactivity, or high that cannabis produces, is another possible risk for older individuals, especially those at risk of cognitive impairment,” Harvard Health adds. “These days, with the ability to purchase cannabis at medical dispensaries, people have more control over the kinds or strains of marijuana that can be purchased and consumed. It’s also easier to avoid the high by controlling dose and keeping THC content low by using strains that are lower in THC (the chemical that causes intoxication) and higher in CBD, which is non-intoxicating. If an elderly person has delirium or any other mental illness, they and their doctors should proceed with caution.”
3 — Is cannabis safe for the elderly?
While there is some evidence that medical cannabis can assist with a variety of ailments, doctors continue to urge caution. “I get 90-year-olds who come in and ask if I think they should try cannabis,” says Dr. Gretchen Orosz. “It’s intriguing how many older individuals, who never used marijuana in the 1960s or smoked it only a little in school, are receptive to medicinal uses today. We’re seeing more people come forward and ask about it… It’s a major mystery. We just don’t have enough evidence supporting its use. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is psychoactive, and the aging brain is more susceptible to psychotropic medications. So we advise our patients that they must exercise caution when using THC.”