2016-07-08 23:42:43

When you think about the stereotypical marijuana user, 20 something that reside in their parents' basements are the images that come to mind; however, changes in marijuana laws are making stereotypes truly a thing of the past. People from all walks of life are now discovering the benefits of marijuana, including a surprising segment of the population--seniors.

Senior Drug Use on the Rise

Nearly half of all Americans live in a state where it's legal to use marijuana either with a doctor's prescription or completely for recreational purposes, and statistics show that people are taking advantage of this in record numbers. Surveys reveal that many of the people who are using medicinal cannabis and recreational weed in places where it's legal to do so are 55 and older. Every year, the number of seniors who occasionally or regularly use marijuana continues to grow.

Overcoming Pot Paranoia

The fact that people aged 55 and over are beginning to smoke and vape marijuana in record numbers shows how much views on marijuana are shifting. Seniors lived through the period impacted by pot paranoia. During the 1930s, the film "Reefer Madness" made everyday citizens afraid that people high on marijuana would bring crime and destruction to cities. People over the age of 55 can remember when under Richard Nixon, marijuana was made a Schedule One substance, putting it in the same category as dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin. They can also clearly recall the War on Drugs of the 1980s and 1990s, when public service messages on televisions told about the dangers of "your brain on drugs." Still, seniors are looking past the stigma of cannabis use and finding that the fears of the past were based on hype and paranoia, not on fact.

How Cannabis Helps Seniors

Seniors are using medicinal and recreational cannabis for numerous reasons, including:
- Arthritis. Numerous studies have found that medical marijuana can reduce joint pain associated with arthritis, a very common medical condition among seniors.

- Pain Management. Seniors with chronic pain due to all types of conditions are using cannabis in place of opiates to get relief.

- Glaucoma. The risk of glaucoma sharply rises with age, and doctors commonly prescribe medical marijuana to control its symptoms.

- Sleep Problems. Medical marijuana is often recommended for seniors dealing with age-related insomnia.

- Stress Relief. Many seniors simply find that medical or recreational weed helps them to relax and unwind, which can have benefits for the cardiovascular and immune systems.

As seniors continue to discover the benefits of medical marijuana, it's possible that the rate of prescription drug use among older people will decline. That's good news for people who are unable to afford dozens of medications, or that suffer from severe side effects due to drugs that they take on a daily basis.

Reference: CBSNews