Volume 69, Issue 1 p. 91-97
Clinical Investigation

Cannabis: An Emerging Treatment for Common Symptoms in Older Adults

Kevin H. Yang BS

Kevin H. Yang BS

Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

Joint first authors.

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Christopher N. Kaufmann PhD, MHS

Corresponding Author

Christopher N. Kaufmann PhD, MHS

Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

Joint first authors.

Address correspondence to Christopher N. Kaufmann, PhD, MHS, Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, Mail code: 0665, La Jolla, CA 92093. E-mail: [email protected]

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Reva Nafsu LVN

Reva Nafsu LVN

Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

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Ella T. Lifset

Ella T. Lifset

Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

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Khai Nguyen MD, MHS

Khai Nguyen MD, MHS

Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

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Michelle Sexton ND

Michelle Sexton ND

Department of Anesthesiology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

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Benjamin H. Han MD, MPH

Benjamin H. Han MD, MPH

Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

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Arum Kim MD

Arum Kim MD

Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care, Department of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York

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Alison A. Moore MD, MPH

Alison A. Moore MD, MPH

Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

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First published: 07 October 2020
Citations: 45

Previous Presentation: This study was presented at the American Geriatrics Society 2020 Meeting.

Abstract

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.