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Older veterans turn to cannabis for mental health issues

Researchers studied cannabis consumption in more than 500 veterans aged 60 and above.

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Veterans in the study typically reported “desirable health outcomes” as a result of their cannabis use

Older veterans are using cannabis to treat mental health conditions, as well as chronic pain and to improve sleep, says study.

A team of researchers from the University of Illinois studied cannabis consumption in more than 500 veterans aged 60 and above.

Compared to non-veterans of similar ages, those in the study were more likely to report using cannabis for the treatment of mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and insomnia. 

Researchers collected surveys from 514 veterans enrolled in the Illinois Medical Cannabis Patient Programme and examined the use of cannabis, opioids and benzodiazepines compared to non-veterans of a similar age. 

Both groups reported similar levels of ‘pain, quality of life, social satisfaction, and sleep quality’, but veterans were more likely to use cannabis for mental health conditions and non-veterans for pain-relief.

Veterans in the study typically reported “desirable health outcomes” as a result of their cannabis use and were also “less likely” to use opioids and benzodiazepines. 

Most subjects said that cannabis reduced their chronic pain, improved their sleep, and led to improvements in their overall quality of life – a finding that is consistent with prior studies assessing the use of medical cannabis in older populations. 

Authors concluded: “Our work provides insights for clinicians and policy makers to consider whether cannabis can be a viable option to reduce or replace opioid and benzodiazepine use by older veterans with chronic physical and mental health conditions.”

The data was published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

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