5 Safety Tips for Using Recreational Marijuana

A senior woman is seen behind the counter of a legal cannabis retailer as she shops for product.

The use of recreational marijuana continues to evolve in the United States. Adult use of recreational marijuana is currently legal in Washington D.C. and 23 states, including Massachusetts.

More people are accepting and have more positive attitudes regarding using marijuana, not only for medicinal purposes but also for recreational use. 

This change has prompted more people to explore the benefits and risks of cannabis use. Whether or not you’re new to cannabis use, prioritizing safety is key.

Recreational marijuana risks for older adults

As we age, we must be careful about anything we put into our bodies. The food we eat, prescription drugs, alcohol, and cannabis affect our bodies differently compared to when we were younger.

“I do see a lot of older adults who are overly confident, saying they know how to handle it,” said Dr. Benjamin Han, a geriatrician at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Yet as they have gotten older, their bodies are more sensitive, and the concentrations are very different from what they may have tried when they were younger.”

Han is the primary author of a study that identified a large increase in cannabis-related emergency department visits among adults ages 65 and older from 2015 to 2019. The potential adverse side effects of cannabis use for older adults include:

  • Psychosis
  • Injuries and falls
  • Delirium and paranoia
  • Exacerbated cardiovascular and pulmonary disease
  • Negative interactions with prescription medications
  • Severe nausea and vomiting

Safe marijuana use for older adults

If you’ve decided to try recreational marijuana, here are some tips for using it responsibly and safely.

  1. Talk to your doctor. To use marijuana medicinally, you’ll need a prescription. But even if you’re using it recreationally, it’s still important to discuss it with your doctor. This is especially true if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications that may interact with marijuana.
  2. Start slowly. If you’re new to recreational marijuana or haven’t used it in a while, begin with a low dosage and gradually increase if needed. This allows you to gauge your tolerance and avoid potential adverse side effects.
  3. Only buy marijuana legally. Always purchase marijuana from a licensed and reputable dispensary. Some states, including Massachusetts, require dispensaries to be licensed. Dispensary products are tested for potency and potential contaminants. In addition, dispensary staff can make suggestions and answer questions about the variety of products and dosage amounts available.
  4. Don’t drive. Most of us know that drinking and driving are dangerous. The same is true for driving while under the influence of marijuana. Even if you feel like you can drive safely, don’t drive for at least four hours after smoking cannabis and 12 hours after taking an edible.
  5. Know when you’ve consumed too much. Know your limits and be aware of warning signs that indicate you’ve had too much. If you experience extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, fast heart rate, or panic, stop using the product.

Research continues

“We truly have much to learn about cannabis, given all the new forms of it and combinations of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), and this will inform our understanding of risks and possible benefits, too,” said Dr. Alison Moore, a co-author of Dr. Han’s study.

Be sure to do your research so you can make informed decisions about using recreational marijuana.

As Aging Life Care Professionals®, we are the experts in aging well. Contact us to learn about the many ways we can help you or your loved one. 

Categories: Healthy Aging