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Number of senior stoners grows, but they're not first-timers
If you’re worried relaxing marijuana laws will lead to more use among youth, there’s probably good reason. Exposure to mind-altering drugs of any kind at a young age can have lifelong consequences.
Some of the biggest changes in recent years, however, have occurred at the other end of the spectrum, according to a New York University study.
Not to worry, however, any damage done to the senior stoners’ brains probably happened decades ago.
About 9 percent of American adults 50-64 used marijuana at least once during the survey year, while 3 percent over 65 did so.
Among middle-aged adults, the number of cannabis users doubled over nearly a decade, and older adults saw a seven-fold increase during the same time.
“Most of these people are not first-time users,” said Joseph Palamar, senior study author and associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center. “I don’t think we need to worry about millions of older people trying weed for the first time,” he said, “at least not yet.”
Not surprisingly, marijuana wasn’t the only vice among the study group. Nearly 5 percent of middle-age marijuana users had alcohol use problems, 9 percent depended on nicotine and 3.5 percent misused opioids. Among older adults, 1.5 percent had alcohol use problems, 3.5 percent depended on nicotine and 1.2 percent misused opioids.
Marijuana users were more likely to misuse sedatives and tranquilizers than their peers, according to the report.
Whatever the age or chemical, substance abuse is a costly problem for society, through increased medical costs and the insurance or tax systems which pay them.
Those who misuse substances of any sort are looking for a means of escape, and real solutions can only come from dealing with the root causes.
That is where our energies should be directed, rather than attacking substance abuse through the court system.