According to recent studies, the United States is seeing an increase in drug use for middle-aged to older adults. Both marijuana use and opioid use have increased in this age group during the past 10 years. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released three studies that show the importance of screening older Americans for drug use. In addition to prescription opioids and marijuana, heroin was also on the rise. Interestingly, those older adults who engaged in marijuana use also were largely polydrug users while those that abused prescription opioids had a strong link to suicidal thoughts.
Marijuana Use In Middle-Aged And Older Adults
From 2015-2016 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 9 percent of individuals in the age group of 50 to 64 used marijuana during that year while almost 3 percent of those older than 65 used the drug. When comparing these numbers to the year between 2012-2013 the numbers shown an increase of 27 percent and 107 percent respectively. These trends were examined by Drs. Benjamin H. Han and Joseph J. Palamar of New York University. While the doctors noted that the increase was quite steep, it was even higher when compared to the year between 2006-2007. During this timeframe, there was a 100 percent and 625 percent increase. So why is marijuana use increasing in older adults?
There are many reasons why the United States is seeing an increase. The most important trend that is occurring in the country is the rampant legalization of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. As marijuana becomes legal to use, the perception of this drug is evolving. People are appreciating it more for its medical benefits and more open to using it for them. Approximately 15 percent of adults surveyed who were aged 50 to 64 said that they used marijuana as a result of a doctor’s recommendation. Those over the age of 65, 23 percent indicated the same reason for use. People are also more open to using it recreationally in areas where it has been legalized where they may have never used it when it was illegal.
Other factors that researchers believe have to lead to an increase was previous use amongst these populations. The age group of 50 to 64 was where use was seen the most. It is believed that this age group may have engaged in marijuana use more so than their more mature counterparts when they were teenagers making them more familiar with it. It was also shown that these adult populations who were using marijuana were at an increased risk of alcohol abuse, cocaine use, and opioid misuse versus those who did not engage in marijuana consumption. These adults who reported using marijuana additionally were more likely to struggle with nicotine addiction and depression.
Opioid Use In Middle-Aged And Older Adults
The opioid epidemic is a growing problem in the nation for all age groups including older and middle-aged adults. From 2004 through 2015 the number of adults aged 55 and older who were diagnosed with opioid use disorder has steadily climbed each year. A couple of those years had dramatic spikes in misuse for this age group. It is known that opioid abuse is highly linked to death, poverty, and poor health outcomes.
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