Pubdate: Sat, 03 Sep 2016
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Christopher Ingraham, the Washington Post


Use of Marijuana Among Those Aged 55-64 Up 455% Since 2002

Smoking weed is often seen as an indulgence reserved for the young 
and the reckless: kids get high, in the popular imagination, but by 
and large their parents don't.

But new federal data show a stunning reversal of that ageold 
stereotype. Middle-aged Americans are now slightly more likely to use 
marijuana than their teenage children.

The research, released this week by the Centers for Disease Control 
and Prevention, found that only 7.4 percent of Americans aged 12 to 
17 years old smoked marijuana regularly in 2014, a 10 percent decline 
since 2002. But 8 percent of 35-to-44-year-olds used marijuana 
regularly in 2014, surpassing use among teens for the first time 
since at least 2002. (Survey data prior to that year aren't directly 
comparable, as the methodology changed.)

And it's not just middle-aged folks who are indulging more often. 
Since 2002, regular marijuana use among Americans age 45 to 54 has 
jumped by nearly 50 percent. Among those ages 55 to 64, it's up by a 
whopping 455 percent (no, that's not a typo).

And among seniors, age 65 and up, monthly marijuana use is up 333 
percent since 2002.

"During the last 13 years, marijuana use (i.e., pastmonth marijuana 
use) has steadily increased in the United States, particularly among 
people aged 26 years or older," said report author Alejandro Azofeifa 
in an email. "Older groups had a significant increase of marijuana 
use in the past month."

To put it another way: If trends continue like this, marijuana use 
among 50- and even 60-somethings could be higher than use among teens 
in a few years.

Much of the debate around marijuana legalization focuses on the 
drug's potentially negative effects on teens: "What about the 
children?" as the common refrain goes. This makes a certain amount of 
sense since the still-developing minds of adolescents and young 
adults are most susceptible to the potential long-term harms of heavy 
marijuana use. But the federal survey numbers on marijuana use 
suggest that voters considering whether to legalize pot should be 
asking themselves a different question: "What about grandpa?"

There are several factors that could explain rising marijuana use 
rates among the middle-age-and-up crowd. The first is the growing 
prevalence of medical marijuana, which is now allowed in 25 states 
and Washington, D.C. Older Americans are increasingly turning to 
medical pot to treat some of the common ailments of old age, like 
sleeplessness, aches and arthritis pain.

Research shows, for instance, that Medicare prescriptions for a 
number of common drug types - painkillers chief among them - are 
falling in states that allow medical marijuana. This suggests that a 
significant number of seniors in those states are opting for pot over 
more traditional medications.

Another explanation: Aging Boomers seem to be taking advantage of 
loosening restrictions on marijuana use - particularly in states 
where the drug is fully legalized - to relive some of the 
recreational indulgences of their youth.

National survey data bears this out: The Boomer generation were big 
supporters of legalization in the 1970s. But, as they got jobs, had 
kids and settled down in the 1980s, their support for legalization 
plummeted. It began to rebound in the 1990s and, as of 2013, half of 
Boomers supported legalization.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom