Exploring New Use of Cannabis Among Older Adults
Jennifer Baumbusch, RN, PhD
Objectives: In Canada, cannabis prohibition ended in October 2018. Older adults are the fastest growing group of cannabis users and are out-pacing other groups as new users. Clinical evidence indicates that cannabis may be helpful for select medicinal purposes in this population. Yet there is limited research about older adults experiences of starting to use cannabis in later life. The purpose of this study was to begin to address this gap.
Methods: This study employed qualitative description. A convenience sample of Canadian community-dwelling older adults who were new users of cannabis were recruited. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews. Data analysis was inductive and thematic.
Results: Twelve older adults between the ages of 71 and 85 participated. All of the participants used cannabis for medicinal reasons, however, only one had a prescription. The main reasons for using were: pain management, alternative to prescription or over-the-counter medication, and sleep aide. Most participants obtained cannabis from non-licensed stores. Eleven discussed cannabis use with their family physicians, however, none received prescriptions from them. The main sources of information were friends, cannabis store staff, and the media.
Conclusions: Older adults who begin using cannabis are likely using for what they perceive to be medicinal purposes for a range of issues. However, they receive minimal guidance from their family physicians and instead obtain information from non-clinician sources.
Clinical implications: Cannabis screening should be included in geriatric assessments and medicine reconciliation. Continuing education for clinicians needs to address knowledge gaps about cannabis use among older adults.