The University of Michigan (UM) reports that a new survey shows majority of seniors support medical marijuana. The university released findings from its National Poll on Healthy Aging on Tuesday. AARP and Michigan Medicine, the academic medical center at UM, sponsored the study. The poll surveyed a representative sample of 2,007 Americans aged 50-80.
Dr. Preeti Malani of the University of Michigan specializes in treating seniors and was the director of the poll. She said that while not many older Americans have used cannabis medicinally, they are open to the idea.
“While just six percent of our poll respondents said they’d used marijuana for medical purposes themselves, 18 percent said they know someone who has,” Dr. Malani said.
“With medical marijuana already legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and other states considering legalizing this use or all use, this is an issue of interest to patients, providers and policymakers alike.”
Four out five poll respondents said that they supported medical marijuana when it is prescribed by a doctor. Forty percent also said they would support allowing all cannabis use.
Nearly a half–44 percent—replied “definitely yes” when asked if they would consult their doctor about medical marijuana if they had a serious condition that might respond well to it. More than a quarter said they probably would do so.
Seventeen percent were unsure, while only 13 percent said they definitely would not.
Alison Bryant, Ph.D. is the senior vice president of research at AARP. She noted that two-thirds of those polled said the government should conduct more research on medical marijuana.
“Although older adults may be a bit wary about marijuana, the majority support more research on it,” Bryant said. “This openness to more research likely speaks to a desire to find safe, alternative treatments to control pain.”
Many Seniors Seeking Relief From Pain
Many of those surveyed believe that cannabis has at least some potential to treat pain, a malady common in seniors. While almost one-third said that marijuana is definitely effective for pain, 38 percent believe it probably is.
However, 48 percent believe that prescription pain medicines are more effective than cannabis. Only 14 percent think that medical marijuana is more effective than pharmaceutical painkillers. But more than one-third of those polled believe the two work equally well.
The poll also asked questions about the differences in the ease of dosing between cannabis and traditional medications. Forty-one percent believe it is easier to control dosage with medication. Only 21 percent believe it is easier to dose medical marijuana.
Respondents were also asked about potential negative effects of the two types of medicine. More than half said that pharmaceuticals have more unwanted side effects, while 48 percent believe that they are more addictive.
Final Hit: New Survey Shows Majority of Seniors Support Medical Marijuana
Dr. Malani said that healthcare professionals should take note of seniors’ attitudes toward medical marijuana when planning or regulating care.
“These perceptions of relative safety and efficacy are important for physicians, other providers and public health regulators to understand,” she said.
Dr. Malani also said that doctors should be asking their patients about marijuana use. However, the study found that only one in five physicians actually do so.