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UK Study Claims 40-and-Over Cannabis Users at Increased Risk of Addiction, Health Issues

group of laughing women smoking a joint

A study by British researchers at York University claims that there has been a 114% increase in the number of individuals over 40 years old who seek treatment for cannabis-related substance abuse issues. The study – published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy – used records from Public Health England and examined people seeking treatment for substance abuse from 2005/2006 to 2015/2016.

Ian Hamilton, the study’s lead author, speculates that the increase in people seeking treatment could be the result of higher potency products dominating the marketplace. Hamilton notes that some high-potency products such as resin can be nearly triple the potency of the cannabis available when the study began in 2005.

“Long-term cannabis users, who are aged 40 or older, therefore, have been used to lower potency cannabis in the past, which can now no longer be sourced,” Hamilton says. This would point to a potential opportunity if marijuana were to be decriminalized and regulated in the UK, as many legal markets see a wide variety of both high and low potency strains.

Hamilton also points to a correlation of tobacco and high-potency cannabis use as another possible cause for the rise in users over 40 seeking treatment for medical issues like respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

While Hamilton, who also lectures in mental health at York University, is willing to speculate on the reasons for the rise in older users seeking treatment, he was not willing to do so one the reason for a 95% rise in women – regardless of age – seeking treatment for cannabis use.

Despite the overall increase in cannabis users seeking treatment, and the fact that it is still the most widely used illegal drug in the UK, the number of people using cannabis has declined by over half a million people in the last decade.

Hamilton summarizes his conclusion by pointing out a time differential between those cannabis users over 40 and younger ones. He argues that because older users typically also smoke tobacco, and because they’ve presumably been smoking longer, it’s reasonable that these factors explain the increase.

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