Most older medical cannabis patients don’t discuss their medication with their doctor, according to a new study.
Published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, the study of patient data found that less than 40 percent of medical cannabis patients over the age 50 have had such discussions with their doctor.
In light of their findings, the researchers behind the study are urging US doctors to screen older patients for cannabis, check for mental health problems, and recommend treatment when necessary.
. Late bloomers
To assess how the spread of legalized medical cannabis across the US has impacted older patients, the researchers from University of Texas at Austin accessed the 2019 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and trawled through the data of 17,685 people aged 50 and over.
And they found that medical use is on the up. According to the NSDUH surveys of 2008-to-2012, 3.9 percent of patients aged 50 and over were using cannabis in some form. But in the 2019 survey, this proportion had shot up to 8.9 percent.
Nearly a fifth (18.5 percent) of these older participants used cannabis to manage a medical condition, such as chronic pain or anxiety. And of these patients, 70.9 percent were classed as “exclusive” medical users, while 29.1 percent used cannabis both medically and nonmedically.
Compared to the exclusive recreational cannabis consumers, older medical cannabis patients reported lower rates of mental illnesses (27 percent to 37 percent) and lower rates of alcohol use disorder (13.9 percent to 23.2 percent), but displayed similar levels of health otherwise.