Background/objectives: Use of cannabis is increasing in a variety of populations in the United States; however, few investigations about how and for what reasons cannabis is used in older populations exist.
Design: Anonymous survey.
Setting: Geriatrics clinic.
Participants: A total of 568 adults 65 years and older.
Intervention: Not applicable.
Measurements: Survey assessing characteristics of cannabis use.
Results: Approximately 15% (N = 83) of survey responders reported using cannabis within the past 3 years. Half (53%) reported using cannabis regularly on a daily or weekly basis, and reported using cannabidiol-only products (46%). The majority (78%) used cannabis for medical purposes only, with the most common targeted conditions/symptoms being pain/arthritis (73%), sleep disturbance (29%), anxiety (24%), and depression (17%). Just over three-quarters reported cannabis "somewhat" or "extremely" helpful in managing one of these conditions, with few adverse effects. Just over half obtained cannabis via a dispensary, and lotions (35%), tinctures (35%), and smoking (30%) were the most common administration forms. Most indicated family members (94%) knew about their cannabis use, about half reported their friends knew, and 41% reported their healthcare provider knowing. Sixty-one percent used cannabis for the first time as older adults (aged ≥61 years), and these users overall engaged in less risky use patterns (e.g., more likely to use for medical purposes, less likely to consume via smoking).
Conclusion: Most older adults in the sample initiated cannabis use after the age of 60 years and used it primarily for medical purposes to treat pain, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and/or depression. Cannabis use by older adults is likely to increase due to medical need, favorable legalization, and attitudes.
Keywords: cannabis; medical cannabis; patient care; use patterns.
© 2020 The American Geriatrics Society.