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Surprising Side Effects of Marijuana After Age 60

Marijuana isn't risk free.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Both recreational and medical uses of marijuana are more accepted than ever, spurred by the increasing legalization of cannabis across the country. This new popularity, and the well-publicized benefits of medical marijuana, may lead some to believe that marijuana is risk-free. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. Like any substance, marijuana can have side effects, and several are specific to people over age 60. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Mental Health Issues

Thoughtful girl sitting on sill embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenager spending time alone at home, young upset pensive woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

Older people who use marijuana are more likely to be stressed or depressed than non-users, according to a review of studies published in the journal Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. This could be because some marijuana users are self-medicating with the drug instead of seeking professional help. But because cannabis directly affects the brain, it can complicate mental health conditions or interfere with treatment. "Marijuana should be used with caution if you have a mental health condition," says the Mayo Clinic


Cognitive Disorders

Vertigo illness concept. Man hands on his head felling headache dizzy sense of spinning dizziness,a problem with the inner ear, brain, or sensory nerve pathway.

Could marijuana increase your risk of senility? Researchers have found an association between the use of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) and thinking and perception disorders in people over 50. "Self-reported thinking or perception disorders reflect alterations in thinking and perception typically described under psychotic symptoms," the authors wrote.


Risky Behavior

Elderly couple arguing.

A 2017 study found that marijuana users 50 to 64 years old were more likely to participate in risky activities, including driving under the influence, theft, and physical violence compared to older nonusers. Other studies have found that marijuana users 65 years or older were more likely to drive under the influence compared to older adults who don't use pot. And a 2018 study found that marijuana use has been associated with injury in older adults, along with visits to the emergency room.


Drug Interactions

man holding a glass of alcohol and a handful of pills

According to the Mayo Clinic, marjiuana can cause side effects when mixed with other medications. These include increasing the risk of bleeding, lowering blood pressure, reducing the effects of antivirals, increasing sedative effects of certain drugs, and affecting blood sugar levels. That may make marijuana use riskier for people taking anticoagulants or medications for chronic conditions like blood pressure, HIV and diabetes.


Poor Diet

man eating a burger

Marijuana is known to increase appetite. This can have negative health effects for older adults, especially if you're at an unhealthy weight or have diabetes or heart disease. Several studies have found that found marijuana users self-reported a higher intake of alcohol, sodium, pork, cheese, and salty snacks, but fewer fruits and vegetables than nonusers. "The stimulation of appetite … could be life-threatening for someone with diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, where a healthy diet may be vital to improved health outcomes," wrote the authors of a 2018 review of studies on marijuana published in Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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