Marijuana-Related ER Visits Reaches Record High

A recently published study from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that marijuana-related emergency room (ER) visits have dramatically increased over the past 15 years.1 Read on to learn what experts are saying and why the 65+ community has been specifically affected.

Senior Citizens and Marijuana

In today’s society, marijuana is extremely accessible and legal in many states (including California). Cannabis products come in many enticing shapes, sizes, and doses. Study findings published this month revealed that there was over 1800% increase in cannabis-related ER visits among Californians 65 years or older between 2005 and 2019. 1

The study also found that older males had a higher ED visit rate in 2019 than older women and black adults had the highest ED visit rate in 2019 out of all the different race/ethnicity groups.2 So, this poses the question, why are people age 65+ ending up in the ER after using marijuana?

Why are Seniors Visiting The ER After Using Marijuana?

Sometimes not even realizing marijuana is the culprit for their symptoms, senior citizens are ending up in the ER. Compared to the 1960s when many of these seniors first tried marijuana, the potency of THC is substantially higher in modern-day cannabis products. In fact, marijuana sold today contains 3x more THC compared to levels in products 25 years ago.

According to the Department of Health & Human Services, “the higher the THC amount, the stronger the effects on the brain—likely contributing to increased rates of marijuana-related emergency room visits.”3

Seniors are going to the ER after experiencing a range of marijuana-caused symptoms including:3

  • Feeling dizzy or sedated.
  • Vomiting.
  • Confusion.
  • Falls and other harmful accidents.
  • Paranoia.
  • Delirium.

What Should Senior Citizens Know About Medicinal Marijuana?

Discuss options with your doctors before using marijuana. Your doctor will be able to discuss with you if any of your other medications will negatively react with cannabis. The study concluded that “providing education about [marijuana] use should be a part of routine medical care for older adults.” 2 Cannabis products sourced from illegal or non-regulated sources may be laced with other dangerous and toxic substances or have a higher dose of THC than you want.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Although debated, yes marijuana like any drug can be addictive. Research has shown that heavy and prolonged marijuana use can alter brain circuitry. The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, THC, appears to be responsible for marijuana’s reinforcing properties and a primary contributor to marijuana addiction.3

A cannabis use disorder can only officially be diagnosed by a medical professional, but there are signs you can look for that indicate a problem. Dr. Mark Calarco, National Medical Director for Clinical Diagnostics at American Addiction Centers, says “If you have a real chronic problem and it’s really impacting your quality of life and your relationships, your work, your school, your family, etc. there are inpatient treatments available”. Each patient at Laguna Treatment Center in Orange County, CA is assessed to create a personalized treatment plan for their unique needs.

Typically, treatment for marijuana addiction starts with medical detoxification. According to Dr. Calarco, “how long it takes to detox will depend upon how much and how often you’re using it, and of course people’s unique genetic differences.” If you or a loved one are suffering from cannabis addiction, get help now.

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