The National Cannabis Survey results indicates that cannabis consumption among older adults has been accelerating at a much faster pace than other age groups in Canada. Internationally, an increasing number of countries and U.S. states have also legalized medical and non-medical cannabis.
More than 1500 physicians, nurse practitioners, other healthcare providers, healthcare students, older adults and caregivers of older adults responded to a needs assessment survey on Cannabis and Older Adults distributed by the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health (CCSMH) in the fall of 2020.
Responses showed that 89% of physicians and nurse practitioners and 76% of other healthcare providers are aware of older patients in their practice using cannabis. Despite this fact, only 39% of physicians and nurse practitioners and 26% of other healthcare providers feel strongly or very strongly that they have sufficient knowledge and expertise to address older patients’ and their
caregivers’ questions about cannabis.
Older adults who responded to the survey indicated that their most common reasons for using cannabis were pain, sleep and anxiety. Fifty-one percent responded that they had talked to their doctor or healthcare provider about cannabis but 41% of those older adults stated that their doctor or healthcare provider were unable to answer their questions. Older adults reported they access information on cannabis from the internet (45%), physicians (40%), friends and family (34%), cannabis stores and clinics (28%), the media (24%), and other healthcare providers (16%). Fifty-four percent of older adult respondents who use cannabis do so with a prescription or medical authorization from their physician/nurse practitioner for medical/therapeutic reasons. One quarter of respondents indicated they use cannabis for non-medical reasons (for recreational use).
Although there is a reported gap in knowledge regarding cannabis and older adults, physicians, nurse practitioners, other healthcare providers and healthcare students all reported they are eager to learn more about how to talk with patients, how to authorize and prescribe cannabis appropriately, how to mitigate risks and assess for cannabis use disorder in older adults. CCSMH will be launching a physician- accredited e-learning course on Cannabis and Older Adults in January 2022.