More Baby Boomers Trying to Find Bliss with Marijuana

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.




Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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18 Responses

  1. “In other words, baby boomers would do well to find true bliss in healthier ways.”

    Amen to that, Julie!

  2. Diane Dahli says:

    I did try it during the 60s and ended up being one of the ‘uncool’ kids, since it made me feel ill. But even so, I’m glad that we are over the ‘reefermadness’ phase, and have legalized it in many states, and here in Canada. It always seemed unwise to criminalize people over using something that did less harm than taking some prescription drugs!

  3. K. Lamb says:

    Interesting article, Julie. I’m glad you pointed out the pitfalls, too.

    With California being one of the states that have legalized it, you can hardly drive across town where I live without smelling it in the air or go into stores to shop without it permeating off of people. It gets a bit tiresome.

      • It’s a difficult topic. Still not been legalised here in Australia, except for certain medical purposes and those are under careful scrutiny. Not sure I want to go down the path of legalisation. My brother-in-law died of lung cancer, wasn’t diagnosed until stage 4. He asked what happened to stages 1,2, &3? Simple answer, they were masked by a lifetime of daily cannabis and marijuana use.
        He never felt any symptoms or pain. Healthier bliss is definitely my preferred option.

  4. James Milson says:

    Never did it, most likely (I have learned over the many years never to say “never”) will not. I pretty much eschew drugs of any type due to their personal side effects, and cannot even imagine voluntarily risking anything to impair brain function as we age. I am aware that medical use of extracts continues to dramatically change patients’ lives in more and more positive ways, but recreationally — not for me. I want all brain cells reporting ready for duty every morning.

  5. Carmela says:

    This was a very insightful article. Even though I am not a baby boomer I enjoy reading your posts. Where I live in the SF Bay Area, this has been an issue for as long as I can remember. Now having a small tot, I have become more aware of it in my area. What is sad, I know a young girl who told me she is so use to it being smoked at school that she can tell you the grade and quality of it just based on how it smells. I appreciate you highlighting the pitfalls that come from a seemingly harmless indulgence.

    • juliegorges says:

      So glad a younger person enjoys my blog. Yes, in here in California, unfortunately, marijuana has become a real issue. New studies show just how harmful marijuana is to teens’ brains. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. Living in the Midwest, this is not a common thing here, we’ll not that I’m aware of.
    I’ve heard a lot about it in the news for medical reasons. In some of those cases, it has helped many. Of course, people should always consult their doctors. As you stated in your article, it can me more harmful to those using prescription drugs.
    Interesting post Julie and thanks for sharing.
    Have a wonderful weekend,

  7. corrina says:

    Wow insightful read, I think in this day and age with mental health on the rise things like drug and alcohol abuse seem to be growing. The temptation to escape from reality seems to be what drives most people to go down this road…. sad really. I totally agree though, life is far more better without and practicing to lead a healthier lifestyle leads to a much more blissful life.

  8. Cat Michaels says:

    Mixed feelings here, Julie. I agree smoking weed for medical reasons but recreationally…not so much. imho, there’s nothing more embarrassing than boomers trying to look a generation or two younger than their obvious age.

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