The teenagers and young adults who might have been smoking marijuana in the late 1960s during the “flower power” era are now senior citizens whose pot use was, more often than not, little more than a phase. However, younger Baby Boomers, as well as older members of Generation X, are about twice as likely in present times to consume cannabis products than they were about a decade ago.
According to NBC News, a study published this week by a pair of New York University researchers reveals that approximately 9 percent of people aged 50 to 64 consumed marijuana between 2015 and 2016. This is about twice the percentage of people in that age group who used such products in 2006, and as the researchers pointed out on Thursday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the increase in marijuana use has mostly been driven by society being more accepting toward pot smokers in recent years.
The study’s results were based on responses from more than 17,000 adults aged 50 and above who took the 2015-16 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Those who took part in the survey were asked about their pot consumption and history, including the first time they used marijuana and whether they consumed it in the year prior. Aside from a substantial increase in pot use among people aged 50 to 64, the findings revealed that about 2.9 percent of adults aged 65 and above reported using marijuana, or more than seven times the 0.4 percent share reported in 2006.
“The baby boomer generation grew up during a period of significant cultural change, including a surge in popularity of marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s. We’re now in a new era of changing attitudes around marijuana, and as stigma declines and access improves, it appears that baby boomers — many of whom have prior experience smoking marijuana — are increasingly using it,” read a statement from NYU researchers Benjamin Han and Joseph Palamar, as quoted by Science Daily.
As further noted on the study, almost 93 percent of the older Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and younger Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) in the 50-to-64 age group first tried marijuana when they were 21-years-old or younger. This was a substantially greater share than the 54.7 percent of adults aged 65 and above who were first introduced to marijuana at that age range.
“Most baby boomers who recently used marijuana first used as teens during the 1960s and 1970s. This doesn’t mean these individuals have been smoking marijuana for all these years, but most current users are by no means new initiates,” Palamar observed.
According to NBC News, the NYU study didn’t just reveal that younger Baby Boomers were more likely to smoke pot in recent years. There were also some “concerning” findings, including a greater prevalence of alcoholism, nicotine dependence, cocaine use, and “misuse” of prescription drugs among middle-aged individuals and senior citizens who had used marijuana in the past year, as compared to those who didn’t consume it over the same span.
While the survey’s results also suggested that people aged 50 and above mostly think there’s nothing wrong with marijuana, the researchers warned that chronic use could result in a number of conditions, including respiratory problems, memory impairment, depression, and reduced bone density.