More Baby Boomers are smoking weed

More Baby Boomers are using weed and other cannabis products, and they're more likely to also smoke, drink alcohol and abuse drugs, researchers reported Thursday.

Nine percent of people aged 50 to 64 said they've used marijuana in the past year, which is double the number in the same age group in 2006.

More relaxed attitudes may be encouraging older people to try cannabis, the researchers reported in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Not surprisingly, 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.

"Although current users are more likely to be young adults, the Baby Boomer generation is unique as it has had more experience with marijuana compared to any generation preceding them," NYU's Dr. Benjamin Han and Dr. Joseph Palamar wrote.

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Health benefits of marijuana

1. Parkinson's 

Cannabis has been found to help slow tremors and pain in Parkinson's patients. According to Medical News Today, the compounds in marijuana help to "reduce the effects of reduced dopamine in the brain". 

A study conducted by Israeli scientists found smoking marijuana helped reduce these tremors. "We not only saw improvement in tremor in these patients, but also in rigidity and in bradykinesia," said researcher Ruth Djaldetti.

Furthermore, marijuana has been found to slow the progression of Parkinson's because of its antioxidant qualities. 

2. Glaucoma 

The American Academy of Ophthalmology describes glaucoma as a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged over long periods of time. It can limit vision and sometimes lead to blindness. 

The link between glaucoma and marijuana has been studied since the 1970s, as smoking marijuana has been found to lower eye pressure. Doctors are working on ways to elongate the effects of marijuana. 

It has been speculated that smoking the drug can slow the progression of the disease. 

3. Chemo patients

There has been extensive research on the benefits of cannabis and chemotherapy patients. The "wonder drug", as it is hailed, does miracles for cancer patients. 

According to Dr. Donald Abrams, marijuana "is the only anti-nausea medicine that increases appetite.”

The American Cancer Society claims that the drug can also lower pain, reduce inflammation and calm anxieties of not just chemo patients, but patients suffering from a chronic illness or disease. 

Scientists have found that cannabinoids, one of the many chemical compounds found in the plant, can inhibit tumor growth. It was particularly effective in the inhibition of colon cancer. 

4. Alzheimer's

According to an article published by CNN Health, marijuana may be beneficial for Alzheimer's patients. It was found that THC, an ingredient in cannabis, blocks inflammation in the brain and "stimulates the removal of toxic plaque". 

Marijuana has also been used to help dementia patients. Author and doctor David Casarett told CNN, "I spoke to many family members of people with mild or moderate dementia who believed that THC or whole-plant marijuana was effective in alleviating the confusion and agitation that sometimes occurs."

5. Skin Diseases 

It is widely known that marijuana possesses antiinflammatory benefits, helpful to patients who suffer from arthritis and cancer, amongst many others.

A study published by the University of Colorado found that using the drug topically can alleviate pain and "may be effective against eczema, psoriasis, atopic and contact dermatitis. More and more dermatologists are encouraging the use of cannabinoid cream. 

6. Stroke victims 

Cannabis and stroke victims is an interesting topic of study for many researchers, some of whom contend the drug can "shrink" the damaged area of the brain. 

Doctors, who tested the drug on mice, rats and monkeys, believe the chemical "shows promise as a neuroprotective treatment for stroke”, according to the Huffington Post.

7. PTSD

Advocates have argued that marijuana can provide immense relief for patients, specifically veterans, who suffer from PTSD. In states like New Mexico, "medical marijuana is legally prescribed for PTSD". 

A study conducted by the University of Haifa fond that marijuana helped block the "development" and progression of PTSD in rats. But, researchers explain, that there is a critical window of what marijuana can do. 

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But they were concerned to find that pot smokers were also more likely to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and abuse drugs.

"The baby boomer generation grew up during a period of significant cultural change, including a surge in popularity of marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s," Han said in a statement.

"We're now in a new era of changing attitudes around marijuana, and as stigma declines and access improves, it appears that baby boomers — many of whom have prior experience smoking marijuana — are increasingly using it."

Baby Boomers are generally defined as people born between 1946 and 1964. The over-50 age group also includes some members of the following generation, widely referred to as Generation X.

For their analysis, Han and Palamar used answers to a big national survey from 17,600 adults. Nine percent of them said they'd used marijuana in the past year and nearly 55 percent said they'd tried it at least once in their lives.

Three percent of adults 65 and older said they were current users of marijuana and 22 percent said they'd tried it at least once.

Overall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 7.5 percent of people aged 12 or older are current marijuana users, up from 5.8 percent in 2007.

The NYU analysis showed few people were using cannabis products for the first time in middle age.

"Most baby boomers who recently used marijuana first used as teens during the 1960s and 1970s. This doesn't mean these individuals have been smoking marijuana for all these years, but most current users are by no means new initiates," Palamar said.

People were also asked about other habits and there the researchers said they saw some troubling patterns.

"A concerning finding from our study was the higher prevalence of alcohol use disorder, nicotine dependence, cocaine use, and prescription drug misuse among middle-aged and older adults with past-year marijuana use compared to non-past-year users," they wrote.

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.

And the survey indicated that users think marijuana is harmless, they said. But it is not.

"Acute adverse effects of marijuana use can include anxiety, dry mouth, tachycardia (racing heart rate), high blood pressure, palpitations, wheezing, confusion, and dizziness," they wrote.

"Chronic use can lead to chronic respiratory conditions, depression, impaired memory, and reduced bone density."

Separately, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported Thursday that more than 13 percent of young adults who are not attending college or university say they use marijuana nearly every day.

Colorado legalized medical marijuana use in 2010 and made the recreational use of marijuana legal in 2014. Medical cannabis is legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C., and eight states plus D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and marijuana-derived products.

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