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Nonmedical Cannabis Users 50+ Not Likely to Discuss Use With Doctor

FRIDAY, April 30, 2021 -- Older medical cannabis users are more likely than nonmedical users to have discussed cannabis use with a health care professional, according to a study published online April 29 in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

Namkee G. Choi, Ph.D., and Diana M. DiNitto, Ph.D., from the University of Texas at Austin, examined health-related characteristics, cannabis use patterns, and cannabis sources for medical and nonmedical cannabis users aged 50 years and older using data from the 2018 and 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (17,685 participants aged 50 years and older).

The researchers found that the rate of past-year cannabis use was 8.9 percent; 18.5 percent of past-year users reported medical use. Medical use correlated with reduced odds of alcohol use disorder compared with nonmedical use, but with increased odds of discussing drug use with a health care professional, high-frequency use, and purchase at a medical cannabis dispensary (adjusted odds ratios, 4.18, 2.56, and 4.38, respectively).

"All older people who take cannabis should consult health care professionals about their use. As part of routine care, health care professionals should screen for cannabis and other substance use, and for mental health problems," Choi said in a statement. "They should also recommend services or treatment when indicated. Given the increase in tetrahydrocannabinol potency, health care professionals should educate older cannabis users, especially high-frequency users, on potential safety issues and adverse effects."

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