Study finds rising prevalence of cannabis use among older adults in Washington state

The Alcohol Research Group of the Public Health Institute conducted the research.

Research finds regular cannabis use is related to consumption of alcohol among men 65 years old and older. Sarah Pender/Getty Images

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A new study has found an increasing frequency of cannabis use among older adults in the U.S. state of Washington.

The research focused on people who were of ages 50 to 64, and 65 years and older.

“The prevalence of cannabis use among older adults is rising,” investigators Meenakshi S. Subbaraman and William C. Kerr concluded.

Subbaraman and Kerr are with the Alcohol Research Group of the California-based Public Health Institute.

Their study titled “Cannabis use frequency, route of administration, and co-use with alcohol among older adults in Washington state” was published by the Journal of Cannabis Research.

Colorado and Washington were the first two states to legalize recreational pot.

Legalization went into effect in Washington in 2013.

“Among older adults living in Washington, a state with legal adult use cannabis, the prevalence of cannabis use increased among those aged 50–64 between 2014 and 2016, the prevalence of daily use is substantial, and oral administration and vaping are increasing,” the authors wrote.

A key point in the study indicates that among adults 50 to 64 years old who use cannabis, 34.4 percent of women and 39.2 percent of men report daily and near daily use.

Also, among adults who were 65 years old and older and who use cannabis, 17.9 percent of women and 41.9 percent of men report daily and near daily use

Likewise, oral administration and vaping are increasing among adults 50 to 64 years old.

Moreover, “regular cannabis use is related to co-use with alcohol among men” who were 65 years old and above.

“Identifying older adults who use cannabis can help inform public health and clinical efforts, e.g., through patient education regarding proper dosing and risks related to co-use with alcohol,” the authors wrote.

In connection with co-use of cannabis and alcohol, the researchers noted that the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows increased cannabis use among adults 65 years old and older, who also use alcohol.

The NSDUH results also indicate “significantly higher odds of alcohol use disorders among older individuals who use cannabis” compared to those who do not.

“Given the elevated risks associated with co-use vs. using either substance alone, NSDUH investigators encourage future research to monitor and educate older adults regarding co-use of cannabis and other substances,” the researchers wrote.

Moreover, “Co-use of alcohol and cannabis is related to increased risk of alcohol-related harms (e.g., financial, health), social consequences (e.g., fights, work problems, legal issues), and risk behaviors, such as drunk-driving.”

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