Marijuana Use By Seniors Goes Up as Boomers Age
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Marijuana Use By Seniors Goes Up as Boomers Age
Posted by CN Staff on February 22, 2010 at 04:12:48 PT
By Matt Sedensky
Source: Journal Gazette
Miami -- In her 88 years, Florence Siegel has learned how to relax: A glass of red wine. A crisp copy of The New York Times, if she can wrest it from her husband. Some classical music, preferably Bach. And every night like clockwork, she lifts a pipe to her lips and smokes marijuana.Long a fixture among young people, use of the country's most popular illicit drug is now growing among the AARP set, as the massive generation of baby boomers who came of age in the 1960s and '70s grows older.
The number of people aged 50 and older reporting marijuana use in the prior year went up from 1.9 percent to 2.9 percent from 2002 to 2008, according to surveys from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.The rise was most dramatic among 55- to 59-year-olds, whose reported marijuana use more than tripled from 1.6 percent in 2002 to 5.1 percent.Observers expect further increases as 78 million boomers born between 1945 and 1964 age. For many boomers, the drug never held the stigma it did for previous generations, and they tried it decades ago.Some have used it ever since, while others are revisiting the habit in retirement, either for recreation or as a way to cope with the aches and pains of aging.Siegel walks with a cane and has arthritis in her back and legs. She finds marijuana has helped her sleep better than pills ever did. And she can't figure out why everyone her age isn't sharing a joint, too."They're missing a lot of fun and a lot of relief," she said.Politically, advocates for legalizing marijuana say the number of older users could represent an important shift in their decades-long push to change the laws."For the longest time, our political opponents were older Americans who were not familiar with marijuana and had lived through the 'Reefer Madness' mentality and they considered marijuana a very dangerous drug," said Keith Stroup, the founder and lawyer of NORML, a marijuana advocacy group."Now, whether they resume the habit of smoking or whether they simply understand that it's no big deal and that it shouldn't be a crime, in large numbers they're on our side of the issue."Each night, 66-year-old Stroup says he sits down to the evening news, pours himself a glass of wine and rolls a joint. He's used the drug since he was a freshman at Georgetown, but many older adults are revisiting marijuana after years away."The kids are grown, they're out of school, you've got time on your hands and frankly it's a time when you can really enjoy marijuana," Stroup said. "Food tastes better, music sounds better, sex is more enjoyable."The drug is credited with relieving many problems of aging: aches and pains, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and so on. Patients in 14 states enjoy medical marijuana laws, but those elsewhere buy or grow the drug illegally to ease their conditions.Among them is Perry Parks, 67, of Rockingham, N.C., a retired Army pilot who suffered crippling pain from degenerative disc disease and arthritis. He had tried all sorts of drugs, from Vioxx to epidural steroids, but found little success. About two years ago he turned to marijuana, which he first had tried in college, and was amazed how well it worked for the pain."I realized I could get by without the narcotics," Parks said, referring to prescription painkillers. "I am essentially pain free."But there's also the risk that health problems already faced by older people can be exacerbated by regular marijuana use.Older users could be at risk for falls if they become dizzy, smoking it increases the risk of heart disease and it can cause congnitive impairment, said Dr. William Dale, chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center.He said he'd caution against using it even if a patient cites benefits."There are other better ways to achieve the same effects," he said.Pete Delany, director of applied studies at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said boomers' drug use defied stereotypes, but is important to address."When you think about people who are 50 and older you don't generally think of them as using illicit drugs - the occasional Hunter Thompson or the kind of hippie dippie guy that gets a lot of press maybe," he said. "As a nation, it's important to us to say, 'It's not just young people using drugs it's older people using drugs.'"In conversations, older marijuana users often say they smoke in less social settings than when they were younger, frequently preferring to enjoy the drug privately. They say the quality (and price) of the drug has increased substantially since their youth and they aren't as paranoid about using it.Dennis Day, a 61-year-old attorney in Columbus, Ohio, said when he used to get high, he wore dark glasses to disguise his red eyes, feared talking to people on the street and worried about encountering police. With age, he says, any drawbacks to the drug have disappeared."My eyes no longer turn red, I no longer get the munchies," Day said. "The primary drawbacks to me now are legal."Siegel bucks the trend as someone who was well into her 50s before she tried pot for the first time. She can muster only one frustration with the drug."I never learned how to roll a joint," she said. "It's just a big nuisance. It's much easier to fill a pipe."Source: Journal Gazette, The (IN)Author: Matt SedenskyPublished: February 22, 2010Copyright: 2010 The Journal GazetteContact: letters jg.netWebsite: http://www.journalgazette.netURL: -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on February 22, 2010 at 19:43:20 PT
When I think of how Cannabis helps a person feel better I describe it this way. It doesn't necessarily take all the pain away but it sort of pushes it out of your mind so you can get thru the pain. That's a good thing since a person can overdo when using a narcotic pain reliever and then might hurt themselves more.We're calling it a day and it turned out good because of runruff.
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Comment #9 posted by Hope on February 22, 2010 at 19:31:04 PT
I learned, that one night I told you about,
that cannabis can help with extreme pain and not just relaxation and a sense of well being or euphoria. At least I thought the pain was extreme. I have bone spurs and arthritis in my neck and if I sleep wrong on the wrong mattress or pillow... ow... I wake up in hot, miserable, often intractable, with any medicine, burning pain from shoulders, neck, and entire head, but especially the back and base of my skull towards my neck. I had nothing in that house I wasn't allergic to, to take for a very, very bad headache, except some mediocre cannabis, a rice filled heating bag, and strong black coffee. The heat and the coffee weren't helping much at all.I couldn't go get anything with a Texas style major electrical, wind, and rain storm happening, in the middle of the night, that I couldn't drive in, and I was hurting too bad to drive, and I was out in the country, twenty to thirty minutes, minimum, in good weather to a store that was open. To my great amazement, a few puffs gave me blessed relief for about thirty to forty five minutes at a time. Enough that I could lay down and rest for a bit at a time... until the pain returned, but a few more puffs and I was good for an other thirty to forty five minutes. I was so miserably desperate and smoking the cannabis helped amazingly, until daylight and I could go get ibuprofen and acetaminophen, my more usual choice for the problem. I was very impressed, to say the least.But yes, I, too, can appreciate the value of a major or narcotic pain medicine if it can help without making a person sick. Thankfully, and usually though, over the counter works very well for me when I need it.Until that night, I had no idea what an amazing effect cannabis could have on pain.
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on February 22, 2010 at 18:37:30 PT
I know what you mean. I couldn't have gotten thru this surgery without pain pills. I had a problem with pain medicine many years ago and didn't take one from 1994 until I got sick and needed an operation. I know I have an addictive personality that is why I am finishing the last one tomorrow and that will be it until something else in life requires them. Some people don't have a problem like I did but I will never go thru that again. It was way too hard to quit. It was very painful.
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Comment #7 posted by The GCW on February 22, 2010 at 18:13:28 PT
I had a situation where I was happy to have Percocet. After I felt better I took one or 2 more just because but I put an end to that quick. Saved a few more than a few and every now and then an honest pain comes along and it is nice to have one or so of those. My son fell while tele skiing, hurt His hand and needed to get to the doctor but I wanted to wait till the next day to avoid the ER and I used one Percocet to get Him through the night. Then they gave Him more. While playing hockey every now and then I take a hit or land on something and I'm happy to have ibuprophen. Saturday night it was the right hip and it hurt and Ibuprophen was right on.It's hard to knock pain pills.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on February 22, 2010 at 15:50:57 PT
I have been on pain medicine for about 2 months. I will be done with them tomorrow. Vicodin (lowest strength) was necessary but just stopping it is a little harder. I've had the good sense to have been cutting them back to where when I stop I will only be taking one pill. Cannabis can't help with extreme pain but narcotics do. Much of the eveyday pain of getting older can be maintained with Cannabis. If you stop using Cannabis there isn't a problem at all.
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Comment #5 posted by The GCW on February 22, 2010 at 15:40:01 PT
Also in the Summit Daily News
US: Marijuana use by seniors goes up as boomers age
 Webpage: is a great article. Dr. William Dale, chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center, speaks of "Older users could be at risk for falls (like class A narcotics aren't) if they become dizzy, smoking it increases the risk of heart disease (not only unproven, the class A narcotics do increase that risk) and it can cause cognitive impairment (but not as bad as many Pharm pills)...If Dr. William Dale were to start listing the potential side effects of all the crap that is used to replace cannabis, He'd have pages print.
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Comment #4 posted by Canis420 on February 22, 2010 at 10:48:52 PT:
the risk for heart disease...I have not heard this one before.
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on February 22, 2010 at 09:41:13 PT
If he follows his usual behavior, he'll be sending them a letter and expecting it to be published. Souder, I suspect, is one of those people who will never be able to say that he might be wrong.
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Comment #2 posted by dongenero on February 22, 2010 at 09:14:08 PT
from Ft Wayne IN
I'm surprised a Ft Wayne newspaper carried this article. Nice.It's Mark Souder country. Hope he enjoyed the article. 
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Comment #1 posted by Storm Crow on February 22, 2010 at 08:17:46 PT
Yep! There are a lot of us! 
As the economy worsens, many senior citizens are finding that it is far cheaper to grow a few plants among the roses, than it is to buy the side-effect laden pharmaceuticals their doctors are pushing!Why should I BUY Imitrex for the migraines, Ambien to sleep, this for the arthritis, and that for the upset stomach? A couple of puffs from what I can GROW replaces them all! 
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