UCSD-NBC Chicago Study

Stoned seniors — and we’re not talking high school kids — are coming to the emergency room for cannabis-related problems in unprecedented numbers, according to a new study by researchers at UC San Diego.

According to the study conducted by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, only 366 Californians over the age of 65 visited the emergency room in 2005 for cannabis-related problems. By 2019, that figure had skyrocketed by almost 3,200%, when 12,167 seniors visited the emergency room for this reason.

While a law was passed by the state in 1996 approving the use of marijuana for medical purposes, a second law was passed in 2003 clarifying the legislation before its use became widespread. Recreational marijuana use was endorsed by voters in the state in 2016. It’s worth noting that the study shows that while ER visits increased between 2013 and 2017, they plateaued in 2017. year weed became legally available for recreational use. be linked to an increase in emergency room visits by older adults for cannabis-related problems.

“Many patients assume they won’t have any adverse side effects from cannabis because they often don’t take it as seriously as they would a prescription drug,” said Dr. Benjamin Han, a geriatrician author of the study. “I see a lot of older adults who are overconfident, saying they know how to handle it – but as they get older their bodies are more sensitive and the concentrations are very different from what they may have tried when they were older. young.”

The researchers cited “an increasing number of older adults…experimenting with cannabis to help relieve chronic symptoms” as responsible, in part, for the surge in emergency room visitors. Among other reasons, geriatricians will likely be concerned about the study results due to the fact that older patients “are at greater risk for adverse health effects associated with psychoactive substances,” according to a press release issued by UC San Diego this week.

Although some older users experiment with the drug as a component of palliative care, others drink it recreationally, of course. Both groups – who the researchers say feel their risk of regular use is decreasing – have been using marijuana more and more since 2005; both have contributed to the spike in hospital trips, researchers say.

The league asked researchers across North America for ideas on how to study cannabis as a treatment option, reports NBC 7’s Derek Togerson.

“Cannabis can slow reaction time and impair attention,” the press release states, “which can lead to injuries and falls; increase the risk of psychosis, delirium and paranoia; exacerbate cardiovascular and pulmonary disease and interact with other prescription medications.

The study authors would like healthcare professionals to normalize discussions with elderly patients about cannabis use, and in doing so, taking care not to lump questions about its use with those about drug use. illegal. The reason: Patients may not answer truthfully.

“Instead, ask a question like, ‘Have you used cannabis – also known as marijuana – for any reason in the past 12 months?’ would encourage older adults to respond more candidly,” said study co-author Dr. Alison Moore. “Providers can then ask how often cannabis is used, for what purpose – such as medicinally for pain, sleep or anxiety or for recreational purposes to relax – in what form (smoked, eaten, applied topically) and if they know how much THC and CBD it contains. information, he can then educate the patient on the potential risks of use.


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