Cannabis side effects for senior and older adult patients with Alison Moore, MD, MPH

Your 1+1 Team
June 27, 2023

Rising Cannabis Use Among Seniors: Risks and Importance of Open Communication

In a recent AMA Update video and podcast series, Dr. Alison Moore, professor and chief of geriatrics, gerontology, and palliative care at UC San Diego, sheds light on the increasing use of cannabis among seniors and the unique risks associated with it. The podcast highlights the findings of a study conducted by Dr. Moore and her colleagues. She discusses the driving factors behind this trend and the importance of open communication between seniors and their healthcare providers.

Rising Cannabis Use Among Seniors

Dr. Moore highlights the significant rise in cannabis use among older adults with data indicating a five-fold increase in past-year marijuana use among individuals aged 65 and older. The legalization of cannabis in many states, the Baby Boomer generation’s more permissive attitudes toward substance use, and the desire to manage symptoms that traditional treatments often fail to address are key factors driving this upward trend.

Reluctance to Discuss Cannabis Use with Doctors

Dr. Moore also points out the issue of seniors not openly discussing their cannabis use with healthcare providers. Dr. Moore’s research reveals that only 41% of seniors informed their doctors about their cannabis use. This lack of disclosure can be attributed to the stigma surrounding cannabis and its illegal status in some areas. The lack of open conversation can be a problem especially because seniors usually require information on the efficacy and safety of cannabis use in balance with prescription medications.

Effects of Cannabis on Seniors

Additionally, Dr. Moore discusses the importance of understanding how cannabis can affect seniors differently due to age-related physiological changes. As individuals age, they become more vulnerable to the adverse effects of medications and substances. Cannabis can have negative impacts on the lungs, heart, and brain which can potentially lead to lung injury, increased heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, psychosis, cognitive impairments, and increased risks of accidents and falls. The complex composition of cannabis, including various cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, further complicates its effects on the body.

Increasing Transparency and Comfort

Healthcare providers need to foster open and nonjudgmental communication about cannabis use to ensure the safety of seniors. Physicians are encouraged to regularly ask their patients about their use of all substances and frame the questions in a way that normalizes a potentially positive response. Healthcare providers can gather vital information and offer appropriate guidance by asking about the frequency and purposes of cannabis use, as well as the types of products and methods of consumption.

As cannabis use among seniors continues to rise, it is crucial to understand the associated risks and foster open communication between seniors and their healthcare providers, so they can receive the necessary guidance to ensure their well-being.


The information provided is based on the conversation between Dr. Alison Moore and Todd Unger in the AMA Update video and podcast series. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional or physician for personalized advice and guidance regarding cannabis use or any medical concerns.

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