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Predictors of replacing alcohol with marijuana among older and younger adult women

Karina Villalba
University of Central Florida

Co-Authors: Jennifer Attonito1, Christa Cook1
1University of Central Florida

The use of alcohol has been increasing among older adults and risks of liver disease, cognitive decline, heart disease, and some cancers are especially high for women who drink regularly. The risks of cannabis use are lesser known, but research thus far suggests that low-to-moderate use of cannabis is not accompanied by the severity of risks seen with similar degrees of alcohol use. This study sought to explore anxiety relief and severity of alcohol use as predictors of substituting marijuana for alcohol among a sample of younger and older women. This was an online cross-sectional study evaluating 298 women who reported use of either marijuana or CBD in the past 12 months. Participants were stratified by age at ≥55 and <55. Predictors included alcohol use severity using the AUDIT instrument (scale of 1-40 with higher scores suggesting more severe use) and degree of relief from anxiety symptoms from marijuana on a scale of 1 (none) to 4 (substantial). Ages ranged from 17 to 81 (mean=54.65; SD=12.72) with 72.2% being 55+. Over 90% identified as non-Hispanic, 84.5% were White race, and 11.1% identified as Black or African American. About 75% had at least some college education and 42.4% were employed. Younger women in this study experienced greater anxiety relief than older women (p=0.011). The mean AUDIT score for the full group was 4.57 (SD=5.92) and there was no significant difference in mean AUDIT scores between age groups (t=0.906, p=0.183). A total of 46.3% experienced moderate to substantial anxiety relief from marijuana, and 11% of the total sample stated they had substituted marijuana for alcohol. In a logistic regression model (including race, Hispanic ethnicity, and employment status as covariates), only severity of alcohol use among <55 women (OR=6.6, p=0.01) and the degree of relief from anxiety from marijuana use among 55+ women (OR=16.741; p<0.001) predicted replacing marijuana for alcohol. As alcohol use is on the rise among older adults and moderate-to-heavy drinking is especially risky for older women, findings from this study indicate that marijuana may serve as a harm reduction therapy among heavier drinkers and older adult women struggling with anxiety.

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