Middle-Aged Americans More Likely To Smoke Weed Than Teens, Report Says

By Victoria Kim 09/09/16

35- to 44-year-olds now use cannabis more frequently than 12- to 17-year-olds.

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Middle-Aged Americans More Likely To Smoke Weed Than Teens, Report Says

We’ve reached a point where middle-aged Americans are using cannabis at a higher rate than teenagers. According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adult use of cannabis has surpassed teen use for the first time since at least 2002. 

The report says that in 2014, only 7.4% of Americans between the ages of 12-17 reported using cannabis in the month preceding the survey. (Past month use is interpreted to indicate regular/monthly use.) But that same year, 8% of 35- to 44-year-olds reported using cannabis regularly. This is the first time any age group older than 35 has surpassed 12- to 17-year-olds since 2002.

The data tracked Americans’ cannabis use from 2002 to 2014. Older Americans across the board reported increases in cannabis use, with the highest increases reported among the elderly. 

Among those aged 35-44, use rose by 43%. Among those aged 45-54, use rose by 48%. 

Past age 55, however, the percentage changes jumped to triple digits. Among those aged 55-64, cannabis use rose by 455% between 2002 and 2014. And among those 65 and older, cannabis use rose by 333%.

Interestingly, the 12-17 age group was the only one that experienced a decline in use since 2002 (by 10%). And though older Americans over 55 are still among the least frequent cannabis users, at the rate they’re going, they’re on track to surpass teen use—and maybe even 18- to 25-year-olds, who have far exceeded any other group since 2002.

“If trends continue like this, marijuana use among 50- and even 60-somethings could be higher than use among teens in a few years,” wrote Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post, who reported on the new data.

In exploring the forces driving these trends, Ingraham says the elderly are using marijuana to relieve physical issues that come with old age like pain and trouble sleeping.

This is backed up by recently published research. The results of a study published in March in the Journal of Pain suggest that chronic pain patients are substituting medical cannabis for opioid medication. Researchers surveyed 244 chronic pain patients who were also medical marijuana card holders in Michigan, and found that having access to cannabis was associated with a significant decrease in opioid use and an increased quality of life. 

Another study published in the July issue of Health Affairs found a notable decrease in Medicare prescriptions for pills treating glaucoma, nausea, pain, sleep disorders, and more—all conditions that qualify for medical cannabis, depending on the state.

Another reason older Americans are increasingly pot-friendly? They’re baby boomers. “There’s a resurgence of interest in pot and psychedelics in baby boomers,” Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, told The Fix in 2013. 

“Many of them had experience with these substances in college, then gave them up for their families and careers,” said Doblin. “Now that they’re retiring and no longer working, they’re more open.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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