Back pain, anxiety and arthritis top symptoms attracting cannabis use among the 50-plus crowd


Strainprint releases report on how seniors using cannabis to treat mental, physical conditions.

For those aged 50 and older, men edged out women with respect to reporting efficacy of top-treated symptoms.

Who’d of thunk it just a few years ago, but those aged 50-plus are using cannabis to treat a wide range of symptoms and that trend shows no signs of abating, suggests a new report from Strainprint Technologies Ltd.

So what symptoms seem to be a natural fit among individuals 50 and older who are using Strainprint‘s journaling app?

Perhaps not surprising is that the top conditions being treated by those 50-plus are back pain, anxiety and arthritis. Specifically, notes Medical Cannabis Usage Among Seniors, back pain accounted for 67 percent of sessions, anxiety disorders for 63 percent and arthritis for 58 percent.

The report includes numerous other top conditions for the over-50 cohort: chronic pain, 43 percent; depression, 40 percent; insomnia, 35 percent; stress, 25 percent; lower back pain and general pain, 24 percent each; and fibromyalgia, 22 percent.

Reflecting use of Strainprint’s free cannabis journaling app—which provides users guidance based on selection of conditions, symptoms and strains—the report explores consumption trends among older Canadians. Gathered from Oct. 2017 to Aug. 2018, data for those 50 and older includes about 1,000 unique individuals and total sessions among those 50-plus number 82,608.

 

 

The report was released earlier this month during Green + Silver: Cannabis and Optimal Aging, an event series presented by Business of Cannabis that counts The GrowthOp as a sponsor.

When it comes to using cannabis to treat physical and mental conditions, “the 50-plus group is small, but dynamic,” states the report. In all, those aged 50 and older accounted for 14 percent of the app sessions.

In fact, figures indicate just shy of a quarter of sessions (24 percent) were by women aged 50 to 54 compared to 19 percent for men in the same age group. Percentages for women in all three 50-plus age ranges—50 to 54, 55 to 59 and 60-plus—are higher than for male users.

By percentage of sessions, joint pain was the top physical health symptom noted, amounting to 15 percent for women 55 to 59 and 18 percent for men 55 to 59. For treatment of other symptoms, top percentages varied by age and gender:

15 percent for women 50 to 54 for muscle pain; 10 percent each for women 55 to 59 and men 60-plus for inflammation; 11 percent for women 50 to 54 and 17 percent for men 55 to 59 for joint stiffness; and eight percent for women 55 to 59 and 15 percent for men 60 and older for nerve pain.

Regarding mental health symptoms, men accounted for the largest portion of sessions to treat anxiety and depression; women made up the biggest percentage for insomnia. By specific age groups, the top percentage was 13 percent for men 50 to 54 for anxiety, 10 percent for women 60-plus for insomnia, and 12 percent for men 50 to 54 for depression.

Michelle Arbus, vice president of research and insights for Strainprint.

“I was really surprised that our data showed that 50- to 54-year-old men are using cannabis to treat anxiety and depression as much as they treat their top physical symptom,” says Michelle Arbus, vice president of research and insights for Strainprint.

Arbus also found the use of cannabis among 60-plus seniors surprising, suggesting this “could be a growing trend. Anecdotally, I have heard from seniors who are 75-years-old and up, who are interested to try cannabis to treat their medical issues since they either want to reduce the amount of molecular drugs they are taking or they want to see if cannabis can offer relief that their current drugs are not providing.”

Overall, report findings indicate women were most engaged and men seemed more satisfied with the results of using cannabis for treatment.

“Generally, women are more proactive and engaged in their health,” suggests Arbus, whose research background is in the area of health-related behaviours. “Women also tend to make the decisions for the health care for not only themselves, but for their families,” she continues.

With women tending to be the caregivers of their children and partners, “the more a woman is doing to get relief of her own symptoms and take care of herself, it will allow her to be a better caregiver to others,” she adds.

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As women “get into the 55 to 59 group, we see an increase in the treatment of a few new indications, so they may also be trying to optimize their treatment of new symptoms which would require them to be more engaged,” Arbus explains.

For those aged 50 and older, men edged out women with respect to reporting efficacy of top-treated symptoms. The average efficacy for men was 40 percent of sessions compared to 34 percent for women.

Figures on the method of ingestion also demonstrate differences in preferences among men and women. Whether edible, oil, smoke, vape or other, sessions indicate women use more oil as they age. Compare that to men, who prefer to use flower.

Asked about stigma around cannabis consumption, Arbus emphasizes the hope is that will not persist, particularly with legalization in Canada. “Hopefully, potential medical cannabis patients will feel more comfortable approaching their health practitioners, and our ultimate hope is that cannabis will be brought forth as a viable therapeutic option at the beginning of one’s medical journey, as opposed to a last resort,” she says.

That said, “the stoner stigma absolutely still exists,” Arbus notes. “By continuously shining a light on this real-time, crowd-sourced, important data, we are able to help break that stigma,” she suggests, pointing out that Strainprint has 800,000 tracked medical outcomes and 30 million data points.

“Identifying how, when and why older Canadians are using cannabis is important for both the industry and for older Canadians exploring cannabis,” argues Jay Rosenthal, co-founder and president of the Business of Cannabis.

The data from the report “has given us a one-of-a-kind view into this fast-growing demographic,” Rosenthal adds.


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