The 1960s and 70s saw a surge in the popularity of marijuana use among young Americans. Now, decades later, that hippie generation is over age 60, and they’re turning back to weed. Except now, many of them, like Louisianian Dee Dee Chatelain, say its not about getting high, but about treating chronic pain.
“My problem is a soft tissue problem. It’s not a bone problem. If I use marijuana every day I can function. If I don’t, I can barely walk,” said Chatelain.
The 67-year-old New Orleanian knows her use of cannabis is against the law until the state officially opens its medical marijuana pharmacies. But Chatelain says she’s allergic to prescribed opioid pain killers, so pot is her only pain-fighting option.
Her story helps explain why marijuana use is on the rise among the Baby Boomer generation – those are people born between 1946 and 1964. Turns out, pot use has doubled among American adults ages 50 to 64 in the past 10 years, according to a new federal study in the Journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
As for seniors ages 65 and older, their use increased more than seven times in that same period. The study’s researchers attribute the spike to changing attitudes and new laws. Plus, more physicians are prescribing medicinal marijuana to manage pain.
As we spoke to 56-year-old New Orleanian Robin Chambless about the increased use of therapeutic marijuana among her age group, she started to shake.
“I’m shaking not because I’m with you, but because I’m in so much pain and I hadn’t smoked today,” Chambless said.
The stage production manager said she’s lived with pain in her joints and her hip most of her life. Not even prescribed pain pills helped her. She said instead, she got addicted to them and struggled daily.
“Whew, I get teared up just thinking about it. The rheumatoid arthritis alone can some days keep me in bed. I just can’t get out of bed,” said Chambless.
It’s why, 11 years ago, she switched from pills to pot. She said her life is now livable.
“I can go outside of my house now. I can get out and do things. I had to stop my career because of pain,” Chambless said.
Former NOPD officer Jerry Kaczmarek also shared his story on switching to marijuana after he became addicted to opioids.
“When you are on opioids – this is something people don’t realize – you become a Frankenstein monster that you thought you would never become,” Kaczmarek said.
He says the painkillers were prescribed to treat the pain from injuries he sustained while on the job, but instead, it nearly ruined his life.