Number of ER visits for elderly people using marijuana skyrocket

The number of senior citizens going to emergency rooms for marijuana-related issues has skyrocketed in the past few years. 

A new study by the University of California San Diego revealed cannabis-related emergency room visits skyrocketed 1808% among Californians over the age of 65, and up from 2005 to 2019.

Addiction expert Dr. Harry Straytner says boomers may simply be unaware of just how potent marijuana is in 2023.

According to the Department of Health & Human Services, marijuana currently cultivated and sold contains three times more THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, compared to levels 25 years ago.

Straytner adds people over the age of 60 are also more likely to be on medication for a number of things, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Dr. Nicolas Hernandez, an academic hospitalist at Glen Cove Hospital, adds at a certain age, all the major organs – the kidneys, liver, heart, lung and brain -- start to become more vulnerable. 

He stresses it's crucial to be aware of what kind of medical conditions one might have in addition to any procedures they may have already had done.

"There are medications that affect the heart, and the marijuana itself can affect a certain parameter we look at in the heart that can accelerate arrhythmia," Dr. Hernandez said. "So understanding what type of product they're getting and how much of that product they're getting and the weight and everything that has to do with metabolism can affect the way that they respond to these substances." 

Both experts say some side effects can include dizziness, balance issues, disorientation, extreme paranoia, anxiety and even early signs of dementia.

"It could be considered an overdose, you know, with marijuana," Strayner said. "Marijuana theoretically is very helpful to cancer patients who aren't eating. But ironically, you can also get this kind of cycle rare where you're constantly throwing up. That can also happen with marijuana. Marijuana is a tricky drug. It really, really is."

While experimentation may be fun, experts caution seniors should be extremely careful and consult with a doctor first.