If the FDA lifted the iron hammer on marijuana research, allowing teams to truly dig into marijuana’s effects, the population could be better informed.
In late February, JAMA published a study on the rise of marijuana in older adults that sparked controversy. The study looks to trends in marijuana use for American adults 65-years and older from two researchers who have spent years investigating the connection between marijuana use and senior citizens.
The study utilized data from a survey of 15,000 individuals who shared their experiences and thoughts around marijuana and their use of the drug.
Looking to data from 2006 to 2016, the researchers found that marijuana use with the senior citizen demographic had a significant jump in the past decade, stating that: “The use of cannabis in the past year by adults 65 years and older in the United States increased sharply from 0.4% in 2006 and 2007 to 2.9% in 2015 and 2016.”
Study co-author, Joseph Palamar, an associate professor of population health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine shared with CNN, “I find it fascinating that people who would never touch an illegal drug are now trying to get it, even if it’s just for medical purposes.”
Interestingly, the study found that marijuana was utilized most by women, and seniors who were married. There appeared to be an interesting data point in incomes as well. CNN reported that the study cited their two main users of marijuana were those in household incomes of $20k-45k as well as $75k and above, showcasing the middle class isn’t using (or isn’t speaking about) marijuana use. The study also shared that those with a higher education used marijuana more than those who didn’t attend college or universities.
Concerned about findings, researchers notated that while marijuana use is up by senior citizens, research isn’t catching up with the trend, mainly because of the drug’s classification by the FDA, making it even more difficult to be studied. Some covering the study are looking to concerning trends in the rise of heart disease or diabetes.
Senior citizens with a diabetes diagnosis are on the rise. According to The American Diabetes Association, 14.3 million seniors (26.8%) have diabetes (diagnosed or undiagnosed). The CDC found in a 2017 report, over 100 million Americans were at risk for diabetes. Could a rise of diabetes be tied with marijuana use? Researchers are exploring the connection, albeit slowly.
In the past decade, study after study seems to contradict each another on the threads between diabetes and marijuana use. One piece, published in BMJ Journals looked at the prevalence of diabetes and pre-diabetes in 10,896 adults. Their findings stated that, “Marijuana use was independently associated with a lower prevalence of DM (diabetes). Further studies are needed to show a direct effect of marijuana on DM.”
Another study, published in Springer Link in 2015, found the marijuana use in youth seemed to increase pre-diabetes in middle age. Another study published in October 2016 by Current Diabetes Reports stated, “Because there is a plausible link between marijuana use and diabetes due to the known effects of cannabinoids on adipose tissue and glucose/insulin metabolism, it is important to study and understand how marijuana use is related to obesity and diabetes.”
With conflicting information, it’s difficult to show a perspective that’s fair and unbiased. If the FDA lifted the iron hammer on marijuana research, allowing teams to truly dig into marijuana’s effects, the population could be better informed and have crucial conversations with their care team. Another study that weaves thin threads of possible correlation helps no one.