Functionally Impaired Older Adults May Use/Misuse Cannabis, Rx Drugs

Senior man at home smoking marihuana joint
Higher risk seen for medical cannabis use and prescription opioid and tranquilizer/sedative use and misuse

HealthDay News — Older adults with functional impairments may be more likely to misuse prescription drugs and to use medical cannabis, according to a study published online May 20 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Benjamin H. Han, M.D., from the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues used data from the 2015−2019 cohorts of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to identify adults older than age 50 years. Cannabis use and prescription opioid and tranquilizer/sedative (mis)use were compared for adults with and without functional impairment.

The researchers found that those reporting any impairment were more likely to report the use of cannabis and the (mis)use of prescription opioids and tranquilizers/sedatives versus those without impairment. With an increasing number of impairments, the prevalence of (mis)use increased for each drug. There was an association between having any impairment and increased odds for medical cannabis use (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 2.28) as well as increased odds for misuse of prescription opioids (aOR, 1.62) and tranquilizers/sedatives (aOR, 1.59). Specifically, impaired thinking was associated with higher odds for the use and misuse of each substance, while impaired ability to do errands was associated with increased odds for prescription opioid misuse (aOR = 1.34).

“As health care providers, we need to take a closer look at chronic symptoms among older patients with functional impairments,” said Han in a statement. “Managing these conditions often requires a multidisciplinary approach.”

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