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Recent studies have shown more older adults using cannabis to treat ailments, and it seems they aren’t the only ones.

A study presented at the virtual annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society in September showed more women are turning to cannabis to manage hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and other menopause symptoms.

In a sample of 232 women with a mean age of 55.95 in Northern California who participated in the Midlife Women Veterans Health Survey, more than half reported hot flashes and night sweats (54%), insomnia (27%), and genitourinary symptoms (69%). About 27% of those said they used or were currently using cannabis to manage their symptoms.

An additional 10% expressed an interest in trying cannabis in the future. Only 19%, however, reported using a more traditional method, like hormone therapy, to manage menopause symptoms. The participants reported using cannabis most often for hot flashes and night sweats. Such use did not differ by age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or mental health conditions, the researchers found.

“These findings suggest that cannabis use to manage menopause symptoms may be relatively common. However, we do not know whether cannabis use is safe or effective for menopause symptom management or whether women are discussing these decisions with their healthcare providers — particularly in the VA, where cannabis is considered an illegal substance under federal guidelines," said Carolyn Gibson, a psychologist and health services researcher at San Francisco VA Health Care System and lead author of the study.

“This information is important for healthcare providers, and more research in this area is needed.”

“This study highlights a somewhat alarming trend and the need for more research relative to the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use for the management of bothersome menopause symptoms,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

A study published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that of 568 older adults surveyed, 15% had used cannabis within the past three years, with half of the users reporting using it regularly and mostly for medical purposes.

Cannabis use is becoming more accepted nationwide, with fewer than a dozen states making it fully illegal.

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