Only six percent of older adults currently use cannabis, but four out five Americans between the ages of 50 and 80 support medical marijuana if a doctor recommends it, a new study reveals. Only 13 percent would definitely say no to cannabis.
According to new findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, older Americans may have a sense of uncertainty about the medical use of marijuana. But if it’s OK with a doctor, it’s okay with them. The survey also reported that 40 percent support allowing marijuana use for any reason and that two-thirds say the government should do more to study the herb’s health effects.
“While just six percent of our poll respondents said they’d used marijuana for medical purposes themselves, 18 percent said they know someone who has,” says U-M’s Preeti Malani, M.D., director of the poll and a specialist in the treatment of older patients. “With medical marijuana already legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and other states considering legalizing this use or all use, this is an issue of interest to patients, providers and policymakers alike.”
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The poll was conducted in a nationally representative sample of 2,007 Americans between the ages of 50 and 80 by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. It was sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.
The poll results revealed that 48 percent believe prescription pain medicines are more addictive than marijuana, and 57 said that such medicines have more side effects than marijuana.
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“These perceptions of relative safety and efficacy are important for physicians, other providers and public health regulators to understand,” says Malani. The widespread support by older Americans for more research on the effects of marijuana is especially significant, she says, given the growing legalization trend in states and the continued federal policy that marijuana use is illegal.
“Although older adults may be a bit wary about marijuana, the majority support more research on it,” says Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP. “This openness to more research likely speaks to a desire to find safe, alternative treatments to control pain.”
A full report of the findings and methodology is available at www.healthyagingpoll.org, along with past reports on National Poll on Healthy Aging findings.