Marijuana use by middle-aged and older adults in the United States, 2015-2016

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2018 Oct 1:191:374-381. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.07.006. Epub 2018 Sep 6.


Background: Marijuana use is increasing among middle-aged and older adults in the US, but little is understood of its pattern of use by this population.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional analysis of responses from 17,608 adults aged ≥50 years from the 2015 and 2016 administrations of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Prevalence of past-year marijuana use was estimated and compared between middle-aged adults (age 50-64) and older adults (≥65). Characteristics of past-year marijuana users including demographics, substance use, chronic disease, and emergency room use, were compared to non-marijuana users and stratified by age group. Marijuana use characteristics were also compared between middle-aged and older adults. We used multivariable logistic regression to determine correlates of past-year marijuana use.

Results: Prevalence of past-year marijuana use was 9.0% among adults aged 50-64 and 2.9% among adults aged ≥65. Prevalence of past-year alcohol use disorder (AUD), nicotine dependence, cocaine use, and misuse of prescription medications (i.e., opioids, sedatives, tranquilizers) were higher among marijuana users compared to non-users. In adjusted models, initiation of marijuana use <19 years of age [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 13.43, 95% confidence interval (CI) 9.60, 18.78)], AUD (AOR = 2.11, 95% CI 1.51, 2.94), prescription opioid misuse (AOR 2.49, 95% CI 1.61, 3.85), nicotine dependence (AOR = 1.90, 95% CI 1.59, 2.26), and cocaine use (AOR 7.43, 95% CI 4.23, 13.03), were all associated with increased odds of past-year marijuana use.

Conclusion: Marijuana use is becoming more prevalent in this population and users are also at high risk for other drug use.

Keywords: Cannabis; Epidemiology; Marijuana; Opioids; Polysubstance use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / diagnosis
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology
  • Marijuana Use / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Use / trends*
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Report*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / diagnosis
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology