The use of marijuana or cannabis for medical purposes is now legal in 33 states. Eleven states have also declared marijuana as legal for recreational use. This legalization of marijuana use has seen significant increases in its use among middle-aged and older Americans. There is also an increasing concern for the alarming rise in the number of opioid and benzodiazepine prescription abuse.
An annual survey on the drug use of Americans has been tapped and found trends on increased use of marijuana among middle-aged and older adults. Analysts from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) conducts the survey annually among 70,000 Americans of various ages.
Statistics gathered for 2015 to 2016 indicate a nine percent increase in marijuana use among those between the ages of 50 to 64. This is equal to a 27 percent increase in cannabis use when compared to statistics gathered in 2012 to 2013. The increase, when compared to statistics gathered between 2006 to 2007, is even more dramatic with a 107 percent increase.
Here are other significant results found:
- – The increasing use of marijuana among older adults is a consequence of the acceptance and legalization of cannabis use for medical and recreational purposes;
- – Those who use it do so as prescribed by their doctors;
- – Those who use marijuana twice a week have not felt any negative effects;
- – Older adults who are using marijuana now have tried or used it during their teenage years;
- – The older adults were found to also have nicotine dependence; and
- – They use marijuana to alleviate depression
Opioid and Heroin Use
“Alarming” is the very word used by medical experts with regards to findings on increasing hospital admission cases related to opioid and heroin among older adults aged 55 and above. Studies from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine indicate an alarming increase in admission cases due to opioid and heroin use disorders among this age bracket.
Here are the significant findings:
- – There is an increasing trend in opioid and heroin use disorders among older Americans;
- – Records from 2004 to 2012 indicate a yearly increase of eight to ten percent;
- – The number dramatically increased to 25 percent annually from 2013 to 2015;
- – The number of older Americans using heroin doubled (from 2,725 to 5,636) between the years 2012 to 2015;
- – Forty-nine percent of those who used heroin administered it through IV;
- – Most of the older heroin users were found to be Black Americans, Males, Retired, Lives in urban areas
Medical experts and researchers have called on healthcare providers to closely monitor this age group, and to immediately address the increasing health risks among them.
Studies indicate that the alarming increase is due to emotional problems faced by older adults. Being retired and alone most of the time, they become depressed and, therefore, turn to marijuana, opioid, and heroin as a means to alleviate their moods. There is also a need for close coordination among physicians and addiction specialists, as well as community groups to address the risks among these older adults who use drugs.