How Are Baby Boomers Using Cannabis?
The Baby Boomers represent the generation that was born right after World War II. There was an unprecedented surge in the birthrate as soldiers returned home to their families. There was also a spike in birthrates after World War I, but that only lasted for a two-year period. The increased birthrate that produced the Baby Boomers lasted approximately eighteen (18) years.
Americans born between 1946 and 1964 fall into the Baby Boomer demographic. Culturally, the Baby Boomers have had a significant impact at every age and stage simply because so many of them live in every country, particularly the United States.
There are an estimated 71.6 million Baby Boomers currently living in America. That is roughly 21% of the population. The average age of Baby Boomers in 2023 is between 59 years to 77 years of age.
Never before in human history has there been such a large population cohort. Now that the Baby Boomers have entered their senior years, they are impacting the health and wellness industry. Baby Boomers, like the seniors before them, have common health conditions related to aging.
How Do Baby Boomers Feel About Medical Marijuana?
Baby Boomers were the “Woodstock” generation. So recreational cannabis use in the 1960s and 1970s was known to them. However, as the prohibition of cannabis made the legal consequences of illegal use more severe, most Baby Boomers stopped using cannabis.
As Baby Boomers married and began to buy houses, build their careers, and raise children, they were less likely to take legal risks when they had so much to lose. Some boomers continued to use cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes discreetly.
Baby Boomers are typically more embracing legalized medical marijuana than they are of recreational, commercial cannabis sales. Contemporary seniors were also very much victims of the opioid epidemic, and many suffered opioid-related health risks relative to the quantity and frequency of prescribed pain medications.
Now that most states in America allow legalized medical marijuana, Baby Boomers feel more comfortable exploring cannabis as an alternative health option. Within the guidelines of state laws and with the guidance of a licensed physician, many Baby Boomers have added medical marijuana to their treatment plans.
What Types of Medical Marijuana Do Baby Boomers Buy at Dispensaries?
Naturally, dispensaries would want to know what cannabis products Baby Boomers prefer. And there have been many studies to find out. Unsurprisingly, as many as 60% of all Baby Boomer cannabis purchases are flower or bud. They overwhelmingly prefer traditional routes of administration with smokable cannabis, including vape.
However, tinctures are also very popular with Baby Boomers. Unlike raw flower, tinctures may be preferred because they are not inhalable. Some boomers with respiratory concerns may prefer sublingual uptake instead of smokable medical marijuana.
Tinctures are also easier to administer with a measured dose under the tongue. Using cannabis tinctures also does not require devices or paraphernalia so it can be used more discreetly. Along with the sales growth of cannabis tinctures, Baby Boomers also choose edibles more often for many of the same reasons.
Baby Boomers lived through the decades when cannabis prohibition was at its peak. Unsurprisingly, many boomers prefer to keep medical cannabis use discreet. Non-smokable routes also do not leave a lingering smell. Which is a good thing if your grandchildren are coming over to visit.
Common Health Problems Faced by Baby Boomers
Statistically, Baby Boomers may be the least healthy seniors in North America and worldwide. According to one study, only 13.2% of boomers reported excellent health, compared to 32% of same-aged individuals from the previous generation.
For example, almost twice as many Baby Boomers require walking assistance devices compared to the generation before them. And the average life expectancy of a Baby Boomer in North America is 79 years.
While Baby Boomers can face all chronic diseases and conditions associated with aging, they face common health problems.
Chronic Back Pain
Chronic pain may come from a variety of different health conditions. But one of the most common causes of chronic pain for Baby Boomers is spinal or back pain. It is also the most debilitating pain because it impacts every aspect of life.
Chronic back pain can stem from an injury or another clinical diagnosis. Arthritis of the spine is a common condition associated with aging. That occurs when the cartilage inside the spine thins, causing painful bone-on-bone friction. Another common diagnosis is spinal stenosis. That is a spinal canal narrowing (related to changes in posture and loss of bone density with age). It can lead to severe nerve pain and contribute to problems with herniated or bulging spinal discs.
Sciatica is a common age-related diagnosis and can cause moderate to severe neuropathic pain. A herniated disk in the spine or bone spurs can cause the condition. In some cases, tumors can also impinge on nerves and cause Sciatica.
Using Medical Cannabis for Chronic Back Pain
When a patient cannot undergo surgery or treatment to correct back pain, massage therapy and prescription pain medications may be the patient’s only resort. Opioid medications are commonly prescribed for chronic back pain. Unfortunately, long-term opioid use also presents many other health risks for seniors.
Some studies have reported that patients who have used opioids daily for an extended period may be at risk of addiction. Opioids can hurt vital organs, such as the liver. But opioid medications can also increase nerve sensitivity to pain when used long-term. Instead of providing pain relief, opioids can amplify it.
When conventional medications have failed to help seniors with chronic pain, alternative medicine may be successful. And one of the most effective and accessible alternative medicine for pain relief is medical marijuana.
Types of Medical Cannabis Used for Pain Relief
Many strains of Indica or Indica dominant hybrids can help with back pain. The problem with using a pure Indica dominant strain? It may cause drowsiness. Snacking at home may not be a problem for most seniors, but Indica strains are also known to enhance appetite. That can, however, be a good thing for seniors who struggle with low appetite.
Some of the most popular strains of medical cannabis for spinal or back pain include:
- Northern Lights
- OG Kush
- Grandaddy Purple
When you visit your local medical cannabis dispensary, ask about other strains of medical marijuana, particularly with cannabidiol (CBD) content. Some studies suggest that CBD can help reduce inflammation, which may work with THC to help provide pain relief.
Between every bone in the human body is a layer of tissue called cartilage. The purpose of cartilage is to prevent bones from rubbing, creating painful friction. With age, the cartilage between bones can thin or even wear away, particularly for individuals physically active in sports or manual labor jobs with repetitive motion. Many new treatments and surgical interventions can help people with Osteoarthritis. However, they can be expensive, and healing from surgery can be difficult for some seniors.
Did you know that 24% of all American adults have Osteoarthritis? That is almost 33 million adults that have been diagnosed with the condition. Like other types of chronic pain diagnoses, prescription opioids, and NSAIDs are often prescribed to provide relief.
Using Medical Cannabis for Osteoarthritis
Medical marijuana may help Baby Boomers who suffer from Osteoarthritis. Many experience pain symptoms that are not quickly resolved with conventional prescription drugs. Using doctor-supervised medical cannabis may help and provide a way to moderate pain symptoms with fewer side effects. Patients can choose a combination of consumption methods, including tinctures, tablets, capsules, or cannabis edibles.
There are also cannabinoid-infused topical creams that may be effective at providing relief directly in the area causing discomfort. Topicals may be oils, ointments, or lotions, and they work well for some people with arthritic pain.
What Can Cannabis Strains Help with Osteoarthritis?
If you are exploring consumable medical marijuana to help with Osteoarthritic pain, any strain that provides pain relief may help. Medical marijuana with higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD) may provide better comfort, as CBD can help reduce inflammation.
Some popular strains chosen by people with Osteoarthritis include:
- Dig Weed
- Green Crack
- Pie Till I Die
- Bomb Cyclone
Some people opt for two different types of medical marijuana strains for help with pain relief. One strain may be Indica dominant, and provide a soothing effect that can help reduce sleep disruption from pain symptoms. A daytime strain of medical marijuana (Sativa dominant) may help moderate pain relief while remaining alert, focused and unimpaired.
Type 2 Diabetes
The risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes increases with age, but there are also hereditary factors that can contribute to a diagnosis of the chronic disease. Type 2 Diabetes is a pancreas malfunction, which produces insulin to moderate blood sugar levels. People with Diabetes cannot produce enough insulin to regulate healthy glucose levels. While high blood sugar doesn’t sound like a big deal, it can have a cascading negative health impact if not well regulated. Diabetes can increase your risk of developing circulatory problems, leading to life-threatening infections and amputation.
High glucose levels also impact natural blood flow, contributing to the deposit of more plaque in arteries and veins. This can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke for patients with Diabetes, as well as blood clots.
One of the most painful symptoms of advanced Type 2 Diabetes is diabetic neuropathy. This condition is caused by less blood flow to extremities such as feet, toes, and fingers. Without sufficient nutrients and oxygen from the blood, nerves can start to die. This can lead to painful numbing sensations and “pins and needles” pain. Neuropathic pain is difficult to treat.
Using Medical Cannabis for Diabetic Neuropathy
Baby Boomers with painful symptoms of diabetic neuropathy may find that medical marijuana can help. Some studies suggest that cannabis with high CBD content may be more beneficial. Cannabidiol content in medical marijuana can also help reduce feelings of impairment while still helping with pain relief.
Some strains of cannabis may also help reduce appetite and curb food cravings. Girl Scout Cookies are one of them. Other popular appetite-suppressing strains include Dutch Treat, Skunk #1, Willie Nelson (with bonus THCV content), and Tangie.
Starting in 2013, roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers reached the age of sixty-five (65) years every day. And with age comes an increased risk of developing one (or more than one) type of cancer. Some studies have suggested that the rate of cancer diagnosis among Baby Boomers will increase by 67% by 2030.
While some animal studies have provided encouraging results and suggested that cannabis may help reduce tumor incidence (and severity), it is not a cure. The treatment plans for people with cancer can be complex and full of symptoms that make daily life hard.
Increasingly there is interest in using medical marijuana as a complementary therapy for people in cancer treatment. More research is needed to determine whether cannabis may help (or hinder) the recovery of patients undergoing cancer therapy. But many patients try this approach to help relieve symptoms.
How Can Medical Marijuana Help with Symptoms of Cancer Treatment?
Cancer is one of the most common qualifying health conditions for state MMJ programs. Many studies suggest it can help patients better moderate symptoms of radiological and chemotherapy treatments.
Some of the most common symptoms that patients undergoing cancer treatment experience are:
- Appetite and Unwanted Weight Loss
- Neuropathic Pain
- Anxiety and Depression
Loss of appetite is a common side effect of chemotherapy. And while it may not sound like a life-threatening condition, it can further weaken immune system functioning. Nutrition is integral to cancer recovery, but it can’t happen if the patient feels nauseous every time they try to eat.
Many strains of cannabis can stimulate the appetite. For some people, “getting the munchies” can be bad. But for someone who has difficulty eating, when cannabis stimulates the desire to eat, it’s a very good thing. And it can help strengthen their bodies with the nutrition they need.
Types of Medical Cannabis Used for Patients With Cancer
Some strains of cannabis may help deal with symptoms of anxiety or depression as well. Cancer is a devastating diagnosis, and while research has significantly improved the efficacy of cancer treatments, it is emotionally and physically draining on the patient.
Developing symptoms of anxiety and depression when facing a severe health problem is common. Alleviating feelings of depression and anxiety can significantly increase the quality of life for patients with cancer. A change in mood and mindset may support remission and complete recovery. And for patients with terminal cancer diagnoses, it may provide relief and comfort for end-of-life care.
The American Alzheimer’s Association has called it “the defining disease of the Baby Boomer generation.” It is estimated that 10 million American Baby Boomers will develop the condition, and many more will be impacted by caring for a spouse or family member with the disease.
Alzheimer’s is caused by a build-up of protein around brain cells. One specific protein called Amyloid deposits plaque on brain cells, and another called Tau creates additional deposits that disrupt brain functioning. The cause of Alzheimer’s Disease varies by patient, making finding a cure difficult. It is believed that aging of the brain, combined with lifestyle and environmental factors, may contribute to increased diagnoses. There may also be a hereditary influence, where Alzheimer’s may be caused by genetic or family-inherited traits.
Using Medical Cannabis for Agitation of Alzheimer’s Disease
Some medical marijuana programs list Alzheimer’s Disease as a qualifying health condition. Other state programs refer to it as the Agitation of Alzheimer’s Disease, and people are often confused about their differences.
As the disease progresses, patients with Alzheimer’s Disease may develop aggressive or irritable behaviors. Or they may experience depression and excessive anxiety, and worry. Both physical and cognitive effects worsen as the patient moves through the phases of Alzheimer’s. Much of the emotions are caused by declining health, mobility, and mental acuity. Alzheimer’s patients can develop dementia, which is very emotionally upsetting for the individual.
Cannabis legalization allows caregivers to explore using medical marijuana to help improve the mental health of patients living with Alzheimer’s Disease. Caregivers can explore strains of cannabis commonly suggested for anxiety and depression. And consider adding medical marijuana to the patient’s treatment plan for help with pain relief. Caregivers who are the legal guardian of a patient with Alzheimer’s should not have difficulty accessing medical cannabis. They can register with the state medical marijuana program and their loved ones to assist with purchasing and administering cannabis products.
Depression and Anxiety
A variety of factors can cause depression and anxiety. For some people, there may be a hereditary link, where families have a higher than average diagnosis rate. Researchers are unsure how depression or anxiety can be genetically inherited, but they know a probable link exists.
Depression is a clinical condition that goes far beyond feeling down or sad. Clinical depression can cause disruptive fatigue, appetite loss, or unhealthy binging. It can make people withdraw from their social support system and isolate themselves. And depression can also contribute to low motivation for self-care, including health and hygiene.
Using Medical Marijuana for Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety symptoms may be helped with medical marijuana. Researchers are still figuring it out, but cannabis mimics essential happiness hormones and molecules in the body’s endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids from medical marijuana may trigger feelings of happiness.
With anxiety, some strains of cannabis can reduce upsetting thoughts or ruminations. Someone with fear may constantly worry about the past, present, or future and recall upsetting or traumatic events. If the human brain is like a large blackboard covered with bad thoughts, some strains of cannabis may provide a reprieve. Temporarily “wiping the slate clean” of upsetting thoughts for some time, allowing the individual to relax and get relief.
The good news is that patients frequently use medical marijuana for depression and anxiety. Dispensaries have ample types of strains that have helped other people with the same mental health difficulties. There are many to choose from, and they are available everywhere that legalized medical marijuana is sold.
Loss of Muscle Density and Wasting
Muscle wasting is the loss of muscle density due to age and inactivity. The average senior is more sedentary than they were when they were working full-time and raising a family. Muscle loss concerns many Baby Boomers because if you don’t use it, you lose it, often with debilitating results.
Baby Boomers who lose muscle density are more prone to sprains and strains. As muscles lose strength, they are susceptible to injury. A loss of flexibility and mobility can occur, which is why some Baby Boomers use assistive devices to walk more safely.
Trip and fall injuries can be life-threatening as a senior. And cause other more severe injuries, including a broken hip, knee, and spinal bones. A fall injury also presents the risk of a deep tissue wound or internal bleeding that can cause a blood clot. That can lead to strokes and other cardiovascular problems and the potential threat of aneurysms.
Shrinking muscles do more than create mobility problems; they can cause moderate to severe muscular pain. Regular exercise can help reduce problems with muscle wasting, but that can be difficult when a senior is experiencing muscle pain.
Using Medical Cannabis for Muscle Pain
Can medical marijuana really help with muscle pain? It depends, but it seems to benefit some people based on online reviews. Medical marijuana legalization has made medical marijuana more accessible to patients and provided valuable advice and guidance from trained physicians and strain experts (budtenders) at local dispensaries.
Combining oral medical marijuana (tinctures, tablets, or capsules) with a clinical-grade cannabis-infused topical can be one approach to reaching your pain management goals. Some patients take broad-spectrum cannabidiol (CBD) supplements daily to help reduce inflammation and further help with pain relief.
Clinical studies suggest taking a daily CBD supplement with medical cannabis use may improve the overall results achieved with MMJ. That is because cannabinoids appear to work better together, a mystery of science still unsolved called the “entourage effect.”
Types of Medical Marijuana Used for Pain Relief
Some strains of cannabis are reported to target muscle pain specifically. How or why they work still requires additional research. But based on reviews and online sources, many strains of medical marijuana may help.
The strains that are most commonly recommended for muscle pain include:
- Royal Gorilla
- Now n’ Lvtr
- Alpine Kush
- White Peach Bellini
Keep in mind that the strains of cannabis that are most popular for helping with pain relief can also be hard to find. They are available but purchased by other patients with similar conditions. Talk to your dispensary about pre-ordering if you find a strain (or two) that works for you. Most dispensaries can schedule a restock of your favorite strain.
How Can Baby Boomers Find Medical Marijuana Strains Locally?
If you are new to using medical marijuana and have a medical marijuana card, you may not know how to find the strains you would like to use. Thankfully, plenty of online resources help you search and locate the products you want at a dispensary near you.
One of the most popular websites is Weedmaps. On Weedmaps, you can enter the strain’s name and get a list of dispensaries in your area that carry it. You can also see the different types of routes, or
Leafly is another valuable resource that can help you research medical marijuana strains. Once you investigate the number of strains available for people with a medical marijuana card, you’ll be fascinated by all the options.
Each strain profile includes reviews and comments from other patients who have tried it. And it provides valuable insights that can help you hone the list of strains you want to try first. Then direct you to your nearest medical cannabis dispensary to purchase products.
Cannabis as an Alternative to Opioids for Baby Boomers
Many clinical research studies are underway in 2023 to learn more about cannabis and its health risks. And also discover what potential benefits medical marijuana may provide seniors who want alternatives to risky opioid and NSAID prescription drugs.
Obtaining medical marijuana cards is not as difficult as it used to be. Medical and recreational programs are now widely available. Most states include chronic pain as a qualifying health condition. Other diagnoses such as neurological or neuropathic pain, Alzheimer’s Disease, Osteoarthritis, and Cancer can also make patients eligible to join their state’s medical cannabis program.
As the American medical community grapples with the opioid epidemic, doctor-supervised cannabis use may be a solution. Longitudinal research suggests that opioids are not safe or effective for long-term use. Some states have already added opioid cessation or opioid overuse as a qualifying condition for a medical marijuana card. Much previous research suggests marijuana could help some people segue from prescription pain medications and reduce the subsequent health risks.
Today, the Baby Boomer generation has many alternative health choices regarding symptom management. Exploring these alternatives can increase the quality of life for seniors and provide safer solutions with the added safety benefit of doctor consultations and regular follow-up appointments.
Use of MMJ Rising Among Baby Boomers
Use among Baby Boomers is increasing as the stigma of cannabis use fades, and patients begin to see the results from other friends and relatives using medical marijuana. Medical marijuana laws now protect qualified patients and make them feel more comfortable trying doctor-supervised cannabis use.
Celebrity cannabis brands created and owned by Baby Boomers also significantly reduce the stigma of marijuana use. Willie Nelson has a brand, and Jim Belushi does too. And for the nostalgic Baby Boomer who vividly remembers (most) of the ’60s, so does Tommy Chong and Grateful Dead legendary drummer Mickey Hart.
Some states allow temporary medical cards to accommodate snowbird seniors who travel to warmer climates in the winter. Florida is one state that permits a quick medical marijuana card for non-residents. If you lease a dwelling for over 31 days, you can apply for your medical marijuana card. And other states have reciprocal agreements where your home state medical card will allow you to purchase at locally licensed dispensaries.
Like every other era in the lives of the Baby Boomer generation, the retirement years for boomers could be happier, with reasonable symptom control. Babyboomers and cannabis could write a new guide to wellness and aging with the help of medical marijuana.
I am a Chief Marketing Officer at DocMJ, a leading provider of medical cannabis health services to qualified patients. I have over 20 years of experience in healthcare marketing and communications, with a proven track record of delivering impactful and compliant campaigns that educate, inform, and empower patients to make better choices for their health and wellness.