With cannabis more readily available in many US states, more elderly people are using cannabis – leading to a rapid rise in emergency room visits (Journal of the American Geriatrics Society). While the elderly are mostly using cannabis for medicinal purposes, the data reveals a rapid rise in ED admissions as a result. This raises concerns about the safety of even medicinal cannabis, especially for the elderly.
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reveals a disturbing trend of increased cannabis-related emergency room visits by elderly people. The study conducted a trend analysis of cannabis-related ED visits from all acute care hospitals in California from 2005 to 2019. Over that period, the cannabis-related ED visit rate increased by 1804% for adults aged ≥65. According to the study: “Older Black adults had the highest cannabis-related emergency department visit rate in 2019 across racial and ethnic demographics”. Older males had a higher rate of admission than females.
The use of cannabis among older adults is increasing in the US since cannabis has been legalised and marketed in many states (for both medical use and recreational use). As more states legalise marijuana, more older adults are experimenting with the substance, the study’s authors wrote. The elderly cohort mostly use cannabis for medicinal purposes – to help alleviate chronic health conditions. However older people are at a greater risk of cannabis effects, and unfortunately many are unaware of these potentially harmful effects. Older adults who’d previously taken cannabis earlier in life are even more likely to be ‘overly confident’ about cannabis use later in life.
“Many patients assume they aren’t going to have adverse side effects from cannabis because they often don’t view it as seriously as they would a prescription drug,” said lead study author Benjamin Han, a geriatrician at the UC San Diego School of Medicine.
“I do see a lot of older adults who are overly confident, saying they know how to handle it — yet as they have gotten older, their bodies are more sensitive, and the concentrations are very different from what they may have tried when they were younger,” Han said in a statement.
Cannabis definitely slows reaction times, but can also increase the risk of psychosis, delirium and paranoia, interact with other prescription medications and worsen pulmonary or cardiovascular diseases. In the past 10 years alone, concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive component of cannabis — have more than doubled, further raising the risk of psychosis and cannabis use disorder.
“Although cannabis may be helpful for some chronic symptoms, it is important to weigh that potential benefit with the risk, including ending up in an emergency department,” Han said.
The rise of hospital emergency room admissions certainly raises concerns about the safety of even medicinal cannabis, especially for the elderly.
Read the full report here: https://agsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jgs.18180