What we know about the relationship between age and cannabis use
Cannabis has only been legal for recreational use in Canada since Oct 17, 2018 1. In this short time, there has been much debate among governing authorities and scientists about what age should be acceptable to start using cannabis 2, and in 2019, Stats Canada reported Seniors are the age group showing the most growth in cannabis usage 3.
But what does science tell us about the relationship between age and cannabis use?
The research is still in its infancy, and many of the studies that have been published so far have their limitations, but the findings are promising.
Here are 5 of the most frequently asked questions about age and cannabis that we considered in powering our Strains By Science ™ algorithm 4. This quiz allows Canadian cannabis users to find products curated for them by answering a few simple questions, no genetic test needed.
Watch a preview of how it works below, or keep scrolling to get to the science.
1. What is the minimum age to start using cannabis? | Nguyen et. al (May, 2020) 2
Looking at the results of 4 categories, 19 yrs old was determined to be the average age suitable for Cannabis Use by Canadian researchers.
The data showed 21 for education, 18 for general health, and 19 for current smoking and self-reported mental health, the overall MLA for non-medical cannabis use is estimated to be 19 which is in line with the regulatory restrictions for the purchase of recreational cannabis in most Canadian provinces and territories.
2. What ages benefit from using cannabis to improve athletic performance? | Zeiger et. al (July, 2019) 6.
Researchers the University of Colorado Boulder found that 69% of athletes studied reported pain relief as a positive effect of including cannabis use in their training regime, (before, during and after exercise on a regular basis). Fewer muscle spasms, and improved athletic performance were commonly reported among all age groups.
Younger adults reported more positive effects including help with sleep, calm, decreased anxiety, euphoria, decreased nausea, and increased energy. They are also more likely to report adverse effects, although they were endorsed far less frequently than positive effects.
Respiratory and cardiovascular adverse effects and anxiety were most commonly reported, which was inferred by researchers to correlate with the preference for inhaling cannabis by younger athletes, while older age groups reported mostly using topicals, tinctures, and oils.
3. How does cannabis affect an aging human body differently? | Ottawa Public Health Authority 7, Harvard Medical School 8.
As the body ages, the functioning of organs used to process cannabis slows down. This includes the liver and kidneys that are important to how long cannabis lasts in the body, and how intense the effects of THC and CBD are felt.
Seniors are more likely to take prescription and over-the-counter medications imperative to optimal health. It’s important for anyone using cannabis to update their medical professionals and Pharmacist with the details of their THC and CBD use to properly assess for potential interactions.
Cannabis is known to increase heart rate and blood pressure, which can trigger cardiac events in older users with underlying heart conditions.
THC is a psychoactive property in cannabis which changes the way the brain’s cognitive processes work. Reduced memory function is the most common adverse effect of THC and is a potential concern for older adults, especially those at risk for confusion and dementia. Cannabis products high in CBD (which is non-intoxicating) and low in THC may be preferable to avoid the psychoactive experience.
4. Is cannabis safe and effective to use by aging populations? | Abuhasira et. al (March 2018) 9
From January 2015 to October 2017, researchers in Israel followed 2,763 patients aged 65 and up who were being treated with medical cannabis.
This study finds that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and efficacious in the elderly population.
Within the first months, 93.7 % reported improved conditions and reduced pain
Cannabis use may decrease the use of other prescription medicines, over 18% of participants either reduced or stopped using opioids altogether.
Significant side effects were minimal; less than 10 % reported dizziness or dry mouth.
5. Does cannabis have widespread effects on the brain structure of older adults? | Thayer Et. All (March 2019) 10
Preliminary results of a pilot study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder suggest that cannabis use likely does not have a widespread impact on brain structure while controlling for age.
They compared MRIs of older adult cannabis users (average over 23 years’ of regular cannabis use) and non-users in their late 60s. The two groups were relatively similar in terms of educational attainment, alcohol use, and anxiety levels, with some differences in age and depression symptoms.
The data showed no difference in the cerebrospinal fluid, gray matter, white matter, or cognitive performance of cannabis users when compared to non-users.
Cannabis users showed greater regional volume of left putamen, lingual cortex, and rostral middle frontal cortex.
While this data is encouraging, this is a pilot study, meaning more research is required to confirm the results can be replicated in a larger sample size to determine stronger evidence.
What is currently being investigated by researches interested in how the age of cannabis users changes its effects?
CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health based in Toronto, ON, Canada, has 2 clinical trials in the works with interesting topics we will be sure to share whenever the results are published:
“The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between history of cannabis use and performance on a wide range of cognitive tasks among young adults. Participants will be asked to perform several tasks assessing concentration, attention, memory and other cognitive functions, as well as an in-person interview.”
“Epidemiological studies suggest that the use of cannabis is associated with an increase in the risk of motor vehicle collisions. It is also known that younger users may be at increased risk for motor vehicle collisions. Further, the frequency with which cannabis is used may be an important variable in determining the effects of cannabis on driving. The purpose of the present study will be to investigate the effects of cannabis on simulated driving in young as compared to middle-aged drivers. Half of the participants will be occasional users of cannabis and half will be frequent users of cannabis… It is hoped that the findings of this study will help to inform public perception and policy into the potential effects of cannabis on driving.”
Now that you know a little bit more about the relationship between the age of the user and Cannabis, feel free to explore legal cannabis products in Canada based on science!
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Strains by Science ™ 4 is brought to you by the Canadian leaders in DNA testing for cannabis users. The Lobo Genetics team regularly reviews the most current scientific research on how cannabis interacts with the human body, and uses these findings to create our AI Powered Smart Search 13, Shop by Effect 14 and Shop by Activity 15 categories to deliver the most personalized product recommendations in Canada.
LoboJane.com was launched as a way for us to share the “smartest” way to buy legal cannabis online with everyone. No genetic test (or social interaction) needed.
- Health Canada (2020, August 12). What You Need To Know About Cannabis, Retrieved August 19, 2020, from https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/campaigns/cannabis/canadians.html
- Nguyen, H.V., Bornstein, S., Gamble, J. et al. (2020, May 14) Too young for Cannabis? Choice of minimum legal age for legalized non-medical Cannabis in Canada. BMC Public Health 20, 557 https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-020-08639-z
- Government of Canada, Stats Canada (2019, October 30). National Cannabis Survey, third quarter 2019. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/191030/dq191030a-eng.htm
- LoboJane (July 2020) Strains By Science, Retrieved August 19, 2020, from https://strainsbyscience.com
- Betuel, E. (2020, May 14). Scientists pinpoint the ideal legal age for smoking marijuana. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/legal-age-for-marijuana-study
- Zeiger, J.S., Silvers, W.S., Fleegler, E.M. et al. (2019, April 11) Age related differences in cannabis use and subjective effects in a large population-based survey of adult athletes. J Cannabis Res 1, https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-019-0006-9
- Ottawa Public Health (2020) Cannabis Information for Older Adults Retrieved August 19, 2020, from https://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/public-health-topics/cannabis-information-for-older-adults.aspx
- Peter Grinspoon, M. (2020, April 06). Older adults and medical marijuana: Reduced stigma and increased use. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/older-adults-and-medical-marijuana-reduced-stigma-and-increased-use-2-2020040119321
- Abuhasira R, Schleider LB, Mechoulam R, Novack V. (2018, March) Epidemiological characteristics, safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in the elderly. Eur J Intern Med. 2018;49:44-50. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29398248/
- Thayer, R., YorkWilliams, S., Hutchison, K., & Bryan, A. (2019, February 10). Preliminary results from a pilot study examining brain structure in older adult cannabis users and nonusers. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0925492718302683?via%3Dihub
- CAMH (Est Completion Sept 2020) Cannabis Use and Cognitive Functioning in Young Adulthood Retrieved, August 20, 2020, from http://camhstudies.ca/cgi-bin/findCAMHstudy_study.php?d=240
- CAMH (Est Completion Sept 2024) Age Differences in the Effects of Cannabis on Simulated Driving (ADCUF), Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04325958?term=cannabis&draw=4&rank=8
- LoboJane (July 2020) Smart Search, Retrieved August 19, 2020, from https://www.lobojane.com/
- LoboJane (July 2020) Shop By Effect, Retrieved August 19, 2020, from https://www.lobojane.com/smart-menu-search?smartMenuCategory=effect&smartMenuSubcategory=calm
- LoboJane (July 2020) Shop By Activity, Retrieved August 19, 2020, from https://www.lobojane.com/smart-menu-search?smartMenuCategory=activity&smartMenuSubcategory=chill