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Marijuana-related emergency room visits by California seniors have risen more than 1,000% in the past 15 years.

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With marijuana becoming more legal, seniors are increasingly turning to cannabis for relief from a range of physical and mental health symptoms. Increased access to marijuana has led to record numbers of children Emergency room visit due to accidental consumption. Now, a new study finds that older adults also face similar consequences.

In California, cannabis-related emergency department visits for those 65 and older increased proportionally by 1,804% between 2005 and 2019.

the studypublished in Journal of the American Geriatrics Association Earlier this month, data from the Department of Healthcare Access and Information was used. In about 15 years, cannabis-related emergency room visits have increased from 366 visits in 2005 to more than 12,000 visits in 2019. These visits have been categorized into cannabis use and unspecified use, cannabis dependence, and cannabis intoxication.

Older men had a higher rate of emergency department visits in 2019 than women, although women experienced a greater overall visitation rate increase over the 15 years, according to the study.

Older blacks experienced the largest increase in emergency department visits related to cannabis compared to visits of other races or ethnicities. The authors note that there is limited research on older blacks and the particular risk factors associated with an increase in cannabis-related emergencies and point out the need for studies to focus on this in the future.

Why is there an increase in cannabis-related hospital visits for the elderly?

The increase in emergency department visits resulted from a significant increase in marijuana use after the state’s legalization (California legalized recreational marijuana use in 2016) and a decrease in stigma associated with the medication. Study 2022 from Pew Research Center It was found that nearly 90% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal for medical, recreational, or only medicinal purposes. Emergency department visits skyrocketed between 2013 and 2017, so legalizing recreational marijuana doesn’t appear to have affected the number of hospital visits in the state.

Older adults may use cannabis for medicinal purposes and to relieve a lot symptoms Including pain, trouble sleeping, muscle stiffness, agitation, and Anxiety and depression. a Study 2020 It was found that 61% of the elderly who used cannabis started as an older adult, and this group was more likely to do so for medical reasons.

“I anticipate an increase in the use of cannabis for pain management because it is another option that may work for pain relief and now that it is legal for medical and recreational purposes in many states, older adults feel this is another option to try,” says Dr. Allison Moore, study author and chair of the Department of Medicine. Geriatrics, Gerontology, and Palliative Care in the Department of Medicine at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. “Although evidence of cannabis’ ability to reduce pain is limited, there is some data that it may work for older adults to try.”

One study from 2015 foundMedium quality guidesthat cannabis reduces symptoms of chronic pain and muscle stiffness, while another from 2017 concluded that there is “limited evidence” Cannabis relieves nerve pain. Cannabis use is also associated with complications that can cause problems with memory, reaction time, and stability, which can increase a person’s risk of falling. Older people are more likely to be pharmaceuticalDrug interactions can also pose a problem.

Educating older adults about cannabis use

The study’s authors say more education is needed about the risks of cannabis use in older adults, who could experience more severe health complications from the substance.

“I see a lot of older adults who are overconfident, saying they know how to handle it — but as they get older, their bodies become more sensitive, and the concentrations are very different from what they might have experienced when they were in,” says Dr. Benjamin Hahn, study author and geriatrician. in the Department of Geriatrics, Gerontology, and Palliative Care in the Department of Medicine at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, Younger. press release.

The study authors say health care officials should inform older adults about some of the potentially harmful consequences of cannabis use and normalize conversations about the most commonly used drug.

“We know from work in the alcohol industry that older adults are more likely to make a change in substance use if they see it as associated with an unwanted medical symptom or outcome — so reciprocating cannabis use can help change behavior,” Moore says in his book. journalist.

Many drug use questionnaires combine marijuana use with other illegal drugs, Moore says in the release, which may make older adults wary of being upfront about their marijuana use. Separating cannabis use into its own category and exploring how it can benefit older adults, while also evaluating the risks, is a critical next step.

“Providers can then ask how often cannabis is used, for what purpose — eg medicinally for pain, sleep, anxiety, recreational relaxation — in what form (smoked, ingested, applied topically) and whether they They know how much THC and CBD it contains. Once the provider has this type of information, they can then educate the patient about the potential risks of use,” Moore says in the news release.

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