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Rate of cannabis use in older adults with cancer


Objectives Older adults with cancer are increasingly inquiring about and using cannabis. Despite this, few studies have examined cannabis use in patients with cancer aged 65 years and older as a separate group and identified characteristics associated with use. The current study sought to determine the rate of cannabis use in older adult patients with cancer and to identify demographic and clinical correlates of use.

Methods We conducted a retrospective review of patients with cancer referred for specialised symptom management between January 2014 and May 2017 who underwent routine urine drug testing for tetrahydrocannabinol as part of their initial clinic visit.

Results Approximately 8% (n=24) of patients with cancer aged 65 years and older tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol compared with 30% (n=51) of young adults and 21% (n=154) of adults. At the univariate level, more cannabis users had lower performance status than non-users (p=0.02, Fisher’s exact test). There were no other demographic and clinical characteristics significantly associated with cannabis use in older adults.

Conclusions Older adult patients made up nearly 25% (n=301) of the total sample and had a rate of cannabis use of 8%. As one of the first studies to assess cannabis use via objective testing rather than self-report, this study adds significantly to the emerging literature on cannabis use in people aged 65 years and older. Findings suggest the rate of use in older adults living with cancer is higher than that among older adults in the general population.

  • cancer
  • symptoms and symptom management
  • supportive care

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