‘This ain’t Woodstock weed!’ The number of California seniors ending up in hospital from using cannabis hits an all-time high, jumping 1,800% since 2005
- More people aged 65 and over turn to cannabis to fight arthritis and other pains
- Experts say ‘silver smokers’ can suffer dizziness, falls and heart palpitations
- 12,167 seniors went to ER after getting high in 2019, up from 366 in 2005
- Many are shocked at how much more potent today’s drug is from that of the 60s
The number of Californians aged 65 and older who end up in hospital from using pot has jumped 18-fold since 2005 — many of them startled at how much stronger cannabis is nowadays, researchers say.
Emergency room visits by seniors getting high jumped 1,808 percent from 366 in 2005 to 12,167 in 2019, a period in which the state allowed medical cannabis and legalized it for recreational use among adults.
The University of California study echoes DailyMail.com’s own interviews with American seniors, who say the powerful cross-breed cannabis sold nowadays is many times stronger than the ‘Woodstock weed’ they recall from the 1960s.
It also comes as ever more states allow the recreational use of cannabis, even as researchers sound alarm bells about rising numbers of everything from teen pot addicts losing their minds to stoned motorists causing crashes.
The number of ER visits jumped 1,808 percent from 366 in 2005 to 12,167 in 2019, a period in which California allowed medical cannabis and legalized it for recreational use among adults
An 85-year-old woman relaxing at home smoking a marijuana joint as medicinal cannabis. Growing numbers of seniors turn to pot to tackle arthritis, anxiety and other medical issues
Benjamin Han, lead author of the report and a geriatrician at UC San Diego School of Medicine, said many older pot users ‘assume they aren’t going to have adverse side effects’ from a drug they do not take seriously enough.
‘I do see a lot of older adults who are overly confident, saying they know how to handle it — yet as they have gotten older, their bodies are more sensitive, and the concentrations are very different from what they may have tried when they were younger,’ said Han.
Researchers said cannabis use is rising across the board, but particularly so to manage pain from a range of conditions among older people in California, where it was legalized for medical use in 1996.
But this can lead to ‘unintended consequences’ and put them in hospital, researchers said, citing cases of users experiencing delirium and paranoia, heart palpitations, or simply getting dizzy, falling over and hurting themselves.
Sometimes this is because cannabis reacts with other medications being taken.
‘Although cannabis may be helpful for some chronic symptoms, it is important to weigh that potential benefit with the risk, including ending up in an emergency department,’ added Han.
Jill Macdonald, a 70-year-old retiree from Toronto, Canada, is one such senior who smoked pot socially in the 1970s, ditched the habit decades ago, but tried it again recently to try and relieve arthritis pain and other issues.
Customers shop for marijuana products at a newly opened store in Corona, California. The state legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and recreational pot in 2016
She described smoking again while walking with friends in a local park, only to be surprised by the potency of pot nowadays, which contains more of the psychoactive ingredient THC than did the plants of decades ago.
‘My face and arms suddenly were vibrating, and my eyesight was blurred. I was overwhelmed like I had never been in the seventies,’ said Macdonald.
‘It was so extreme that I leaned over in my seat and violently vomited.’
Macdonald said she had no plans to try pot again, saying modern strains are a ‘different animal’ to those in decades past, and warned that it could be a danger to all users, young and old.
‘Unsuspecting people think they’re doing little harm to themselves, when in actuality what is being offered is far more dangerous than our mellow weed from the past,’ she said.
The study comes after Maryland and Missouri voters approved in November’s midterm elections ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, while those in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota rejected similar measures.
That means 21 states have legalized recreational marijuana for adults over the past decade — even as it remains illegal under federal law.
Experts have cautioned against America’s speedy switch to legalized pot, amid a growing body of evidence that widespread availability leads to increased use, particularly among young people, together with addiction and mental health issues.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) annual survey last August found the number of under-30s using marijuana hit record levels in 2021 — which the agency’s boss Dr Nora Volkow called a ‘concern’.
The $30billion cannabis industry argues that taking the drug — either smoking it, vaping it or as an edible — can help relieve feelings of anxiety or depression, chronic pain, and even help fight addictions.
The US Cannabis Council, a major lobbying group, says legalization is widely supported, that pot is safe and can help addicts beat opioid and alcohol dependency.
But in states where pot has been legalized, many parents say their children have been sucked into an addiction spiral.
America’s $30billion legalized cannabis industry is causing an ‘explosion’ of teen users
Teenagers in states that have legalized cannabis use more of it and are lured by colorfully-packaged candy-like products that leave them vulnerable to higher rates of dependency, psychosis and school dropouts, researchers warn.
A DailyMail.com analysis of research focusing on California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and other states that have legalized recreational pot shows experts warning of a ‘potential explosion’ of under-aged use — and more youngsters using it than in states where it’s illegal.
Renee Goodwin, a psychiatric and substance use epidemiologist who leads Columbia University’s research, says teen cannabis use grows faster after legalization
They are alarmed by the weak oversight of a $30billion business and warn of a free-for-all market in which super-strength cannabis products are sold in cartoon-covered packaging that attracts youngsters, even as tobacco and alcohol firms are barred from targeting youths.
Data from the 21 states that have permitted recreational pot this past decade, as well as the 37 states that allow medical use, indicates that teens and young adults there are using stronger products more often.
Not every teen who eats a pot gummy sees their life unravel. But they are more prone to addiction and dependency than adults, and greater availability and use means more cases of anxiety, depression, psychosis and even suicide.
‘Cannabis use is more common among youth and adults in states where cannabis use is legal for recreational use,’ Renee Goodwin, who leads Columbia University’s research, told DailyMail.com.
‘Legalization has moved from a social justice issue, to the other extreme of big business commercialization without any of the same restrictions that tobacco and alcohol now need to follow.’
Mary Maas, 57, from Washington, which legalized weed in 2012, told DailyMail.com how her son Adam, 26, spiraled into a devastating addiction to super-strength pot products worlds apart from the ‘Woodstock weed’ she recalls from the 1960s.
Now, she looks at the potent oils, vapes, dabs, drinks and gummies sold at a growing number of dispensaries, as well as the down-and-outs living in tents under Seattle’s I-5 highway, and urges other states to heed Washington’s lessons.
‘They’d better watch out,’ she said.
Adam Maas, 26, with his family in Washington. Mom Mary, 57, describes her ‘straight-A student’ getting hooked on super-strength cannabis products and ending up delusional, jobless and sleeping rough in Seattle