Pubdate: Mon, 26 Dec 2016
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 New Zealand Herald
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Studies show older generation are more likely to drink too much and smoke

Given more than half of US states allow medical marijuana use, some
seniors may be turning to it to treat the ailments of old age.

Fewer teens are using drugs or alcohol than at any point in the past few

Indeed, while anti-drug campaigns still encourage parents to talk to their
teens about drugs before someone else does, two recent US studies suggest
there's another high-risk population we should be worried about: our kids'

The first study found that, since 2006, marijuana use has increased
significantly among adults age 50 and up. A decade ago, about 4.5 per cent
of people ages 50 to 64, and 0.4 per cent of seniors age 65 and up, had
used marijuana in the past year. By 2013, those numbers had increased to
7.1 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

In percentage terms, marijuana use among 50- to 64-year-olds rose by 57.8
per cent, while among seniors ages 65 and up, it ballooned by a whopping
250 per cent.

The study, based on more than 45,000 responses to the National Survey on
Drug Use and Health, isn't the first to note rapidly rising marijuana use
among older adults. But it digs more deeply into the demographics of older
Americans' use.

Among those 50 and older, white (5.1 per cent) and black (5.1 per cent)
Americans are more likely to smoke pot than Hispanics (2.6 per cent).
Older adults with less than a high school education (5.1 per cent) or with
less than $20,000 in income (5.4 per cent) use marijuana more than average
(4.8 per cent).

Older married folks (4 per cent) are much more likely to indulge in the
occasional toke than those who are divorced or separated (1.6 per cent).
But those who are single (8.1 per cent) or widowed (8.5 per cent) outsmoke
all the others.

One area of potential concern is the link between marijuana use and mental
health issues among older adults. People 50 and older who have had
depression (11.4 per cent) or anxiety in the past year (9 per cent) are
much more likely to smoke dope than average. Several studies have shown a
link between pot use and mental disorders.

Given more than half of US states allow medical marijuana use, some
seniors may be turning to it to treat the ailments of old age. This year,
one study found Medicare reimbursements for several common prescription
medications fell sharply after the introduction of medical marijuana laws.

The survey used as the basis of this new study doesn't differentiate
between medical and non-medical use of marijuana, so it is unclear why
more older adults are turning to weed. But it's clear the rise in its use
among older adults is driven by the aging of the baby-boom generation, who
dabbled extensively with pot in their youth and may be returning to it in
old age for a variety of reasons, say researchers.

"The trends noted in our study are likely capturing a major transition in
the aging of the baby-boomer generation," the authors write, "and
highlights how this cohort of older adults are different in substance use
behaviours compared with the generation before it." And since there are
still plenty of boomers under 65, the trend toward increased drug use in
old age is expected to continue in the next decade.

Nobody wants their grandma to be arrested or incarcerated.

Joseph Palamar, study co-author

The second paper, recently published in the journal Drug and Alcohol
Dependence, looks at the prevalence of binge drinking and alcoholism among
the same cohort of older adults.

For starters, older adults are still way more likely to drink than they
are to smoke pot -- 63 per cent had drunk alcohol in the past year in the
period from 2013 to 2014. But from a public health standpoint, researchers
are more concerned about the prevalence of binge drinking -- having five
or more drinks on the same occasion.

From 2005 to 2006, 12.9 per cent of older adults had binged in the past
month. By 2013 to 2014, that had risen to 14.9 per cent. It was more
common among Hispanics (17.2 per cent) than other races, wealthy
individuals (20.9 per cent), and among those who regularly used tobacco
(27.2 per cent) or other drugs (35.6 per cent).

The widowed (8.6 per cent) are less likely to binge regularly than married
people (14.6 per cent). But divorced (18.6 per cent) or single (18.3 per
cent) were the groups mostly likely to binge.

And while older men (21.5 per cent) are more than twice as likely to binge
drink as older women (9.1 per cent), the rate of bingeing has increased
much more rapidly among women in recent years, increasing 44 per cent from
2005 to 2006, when only 6.3 per cent binge drank.

A rise in the use of any intoxicating substances -- legal or otherwise --
carries unique health risks for older Americans. They are more likely to
be on prescription medications, which -- particularly painkillers or
antidepressants -- may interact negatively with alcohol or marijuana.
Falls are also more likely when you're drunk or high. A tumble that a
20-something could brush off might prove devastating to a senior citizen.

But New York University's Joseph Palamar, a co-author on both studies,
says he's more worried about legal and social issues arising from
increased senior substance use.

Given that the recreational use of pot is still illegal in most places,
seniors who smoke weed may face consequences including jail time, asset
forfeiture and crippling legal fees.

"Nobody wants their grandma to be arrested or incarcerated."

- - Washington Post
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