Cannabis use among older adults is increasing rapidly in the United States. Currently, cannabis is legal in 34 U.S. states for medical purposes, and 12 states also have recreational marijuana. In 2020, nationwide sales of cannabis increased 67%. Analysts contribute such a massive increase both to the pandemic and changing public perception. The risks and benefits of cannabis use still need to be explored. However, it is crucial to monitor risk factors for use, one of which is a low perception of harm.
A recent study was conducted to estimate national trends in perceived risk associated with cannabis use among older adults. A total of 18,794 people aged 65 and older participated in National Survey on Drug Use and Health during the period from 2015 to 2019. Researchers investigated whether participants believe that people who smoke cannabis once or twice a week are at a greater risk of physical or mental disorders. This was examined in association with demographic characteristics, diagnosis of chronic disease, past-month tobacco and alcohol use, and all-cause emergency department use.
Results showed that Between 2015 and 2019, the perceived risk associated with regular use decreased from 52.6% to 42.7%. Reduction in perceived risk was particularly detected among people who never married, those who binge drink or use tobacco. A more significant decrease was also established among people with various health conditions, such as asthma, kidney disease, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or two or more chronic conditions. People who have reported past-year emergency department use had a noticeable decrease in risk perception as well.
On the whole, the perceived risk of regular cannabis use is decreasing among older adults in the United States. Consequently, the number of older adults who use cannabis increases. Therefore, it is crucial to promote understanding of responsible cannabis use and raise awareness of the possible adverse effects. Please, refer to the official U.S. government resources for more information about the use of marijuana.