A New Study Suggests Your Parents Could Be Potheads

Photographed by Tayler Smith.
If you've been keeping your weed habits under wraps around your parents, know this: They might be harboring the same secret. According to a study just published in the journal Addiction, Boomers are smoking in increasing numbers. Researchers from New York University School of Medicine, the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and the Center for Drug Use & HIV Research looked at data collected between 2006 and 2013 for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which included 47,140 adults aged 50 and older. Among those ages 50 to 64, marijuana use had gone up during that time period by 57.8%. But the increase was even more drastic for those over 64, skyrocketing by a full 250%. Of course, the actual numbers are still fairly low: By 2013, 7.1% of people ages 50 to 64 and 1.4% over 64 had smoked in the past year. Between the 2006-7 and 2012-13 surveys, the proportion of people who had partaken went from 2.8% to 4.8%. And while more older people are enjoying the occasional joint, most didn't pick one up for the first time recently. The majority started smoking before 18, and only 4% took their first hit after age 35. "Given the unprecedented aging of the U.S. population, we are facing a never before seen cohort of older adults who use recreational drugs," lead author Benjamin Han, MD, said in a press release. He added that this pattern indicates a need to research how the drug might affect people of different ages. Up until now, scientists have focused on its effect on teens. "The paucity of knowledge in this area constrains the care for a changing demographic of older adults with higher rates of substance use," he said. This may be especially important given that many participants didn't consider the drug risky. 85.3% said that using it monthly posed no risk or a slight risk, and 79% said the same about using it weekly. They may be on to something, though: A recent study in JAMA Psychiatry found that the only aspect of people's health that weed affected over the course of 20 years was their teeth, and it can help with many physical and psychological problems. Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, another author of the study, wasn't surprised by the results. "After all, this was the generation who was there, in the late 1960s, when the counterculture revolution exploded marijuana into mainstream popularity," he said in the press release. Palamar said the results should not be cause for much concern. "Personally, I don't think we need to be very alarmed about most older people who are using marijuana," he said. "It is probable that most older users are at least somewhat experienced and are hopefully at reasonably low risk of harming themselves or others after use." According to a Pew Research survey, millennials are the generation most likely to support weed legalization, but half of boomers also believe it should be legal.

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