Poll: Older Adults Support Medical Marijuana Use if Recommended by Clinician

A total of 48% of respondents felt that prescription pain medication is more effective than marijuana compared to 14% who considered marijuana to be more effective. Thirty-eight percent considered both to have the same effectiveness.

A nationally representative poll of Americans aged 50 to 80 years found that a majority of older adults support medical marijuana use if it is recommended by a physician. 

Researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation conducted the poll on a sample of 2,007 individuals, using a nationally representative probability-sample of U.S. households. With medical marijuana legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, the researchers wanted to assess current attitudes and flag the questions that healthcare providers should be ready to answer, especially in states where medical marijuana is legal. 

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Forty-five percent of those surveyed strongly supported and 35% somewhat supported allowing medical marijuana use only with a doctor’s recommendation, while 20% said they did not support use of medical marijuana. About half of the respondents (48%) felt that prescription pain medication is more effective than marijuana, compared to 14% who considered marijuana to be more effective; 38% considered both to be equally effective. 

The numbers were very similar for perceptions of addiction: 48% believed prescription medication is more addictive, 13% thought marijuana is more addictive, and 38% said they have ‘about the same’ degree of addictiveness. “These perceptions of relative safety and efficacy are important for physicians, other providers and public health regulators to understand,” said U-M’s Preeti Malani, MD, and director of the poll.

Concerning government oversight, 64% support government funded research into the health effects of marijuana, 53% thought the government should develop rules to standardize dosing, 25% thought the government should not develop dosing standards, and 23% were uncertain. “This openness to more research likely speaks to a desire to find safe, alternative treatments to control pain,” said Alison Bryant, PhD, senior vice president of research for AARP. 

The authors concluded that their results show ‘broad support’ for marijuana use when recommended by a doctor, but not for recreational use. Dr Malani notes that given that 70% of respondents said they would definitely or probably ask about marijuana if faced with a serious medical condition, healthcare providers should be ready to answer questions and provide counseling. In addition, clinicians should be routinely asking older patients about marijuana use. 

The poll was sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine. 

For more information visit Healthagingpoll.org.