Pubdate: Sat, 03 Sep 2016
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2016 Star Tribune
Author: Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post


Expanding Medical Use Is Part of the Explanation.

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 before that year aren't directly comparable, 
because the methodology changed.

And it's not just middleaged folks who are indulging more often. 
Since 2002, regular marijuana use among Americans ages 45 to 54 has 
jumped by nearly 50 percent. Among those ages 55 to 64, it's jumped 
by a whopping 455 percent.

Among seniors, age 65 and older, 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 e-mail. "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. The stilldeveloping 
minds of adolescents and young adults are most susceptible to the 
potential long-term harms of heavy marijuana use.

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.

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.

Aging boomers also 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 indulgences of their youth.

National surveys bear this out: The boomers were big supporters of 
legalization in the 1970s. But as they settled down in the 1980s, 
their support for legalization fell. 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