Recently, when I’ve attended concerts that tend to attract baby boomers, such as Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones, I’ve noticed a lot of boomers lighting up joints.
Turns out that’s no coincidence.
According to a recent report in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, more baby boomers are using weed and other cannabis products.
Nine percent of people aged 50 to 64 said they’ve used marijuana in the past year, doubling in the past decade, while three percent of those over 65 have done so, the research found.
Perhaps that’s not a big surprise, since the baby boomer generation has had more experience than other generations with marijuana, which surged in popularity during the 1960s and 1970s. More than half (almost 55%) of middle-age adults have used marijuana at some point in their lives, while over a fifth (about 22%) of older adults have done so, according to the study.
Those who used marijuana as teens were more likely to say they were still fans of the herb, the team at New York University found.
What accounts for marijuana’s big comeback with the older crowd?
Certainly, the stigma of using marijuana has decreased. I never used but, admittedly, weed was considered cool when I was in high school during the 70s. However, we made fun of “potheads” who smoked constantly and came to school fumbling around like fools in a fog bank. That seems to have changed in recent years with some boomers considering it cool to act like teenagers again and claiming the title, pothead, with pride, as if smoking marijuana was some kind of accomplishment.
Access has certainly been made easier with the legalization of marijuana for medical use in 29 states and D.C. and for recreational use in eight states and D.C., including here in California where I live. Pot farms are springing up everywhere including one of the nearby desert towns, Desert Hot Springs, which has been nicknamed Desert Pot Springs.
Some baby boomers use weed to ease aching joints or other ailments or to help them sleep.
Whatever the reasons for boomers lighting up, beware, there are some definite pitfalls. The survey indicated that users think marijuana is harmless. But the researchers were quick to point out that is clearly not the case.
“Acute adverse effects of marijuana use can include anxiety, dry mouth, tachycardia (racing heart rate), high blood pressure, palpitations, wheezing, confusion, and dizziness,” they warned. “Chronic use can lead to chronic respiratory conditions, depression, impaired memory, and reduced bone density.”
Researchers also reported that baby boomers using cannabis were more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and abuse drugs. Marijuana users were also more likely to misuse prescription drugs such as opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers than their peers.
Mixing substances is particularly dangerous for older adults with chronic diseases, the team advised. Marijuana may intensify symptoms and interact with prescribed medications.
In fact, physicians should ask older patients about whether they use marijuana because it can interact with prescription drugs, the team recommended, and it may point to substance abuse problems.
In other words, baby boomers would do well to find true bliss in healthier ways.