5 Things Seniors Should Know About Medical Cannabis

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There is no doubt that medical cannabis use and research are on the rise. As more states and governments vote to legalize and decriminalize cannabis use, the negative stigmas which have historically been associated with cannabis are being exposed as little more than scare tactics. Instead, these negative associations are being replaced with scientific and medical research which backs medical cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, as an effective supporter of overall wellness. Unfortunately, many senior citizens grew up during the time when cannabis was strictly prohibited. As a result, many seniors who could benefit the most from medical cannabis are often the most misinformed about the benefits of the plant. Below is a list of 5 things that seniors should know about medical cannabis.

1. Medical Cannabis is much safer than prescription medications. Despite seniors making up 15% of the population, they are prescribed more than 30% of all prescription drugs in the U.S. with the majority of these drugs used to treat pain. The unpleasant truth is that these prescription medications have their fair share of negative side effects and many of them, such as opiates, can be fatal. Common side effects include dizziness, constipation, sleep changes, mood changes, and upset stomachs- all of which can negatively influence a person’s life. However, medical cannabis users do not experience the same unwanted side effects and no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose. On the contrary, cannabis has shown to not only provide pain relief but, owing to its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, can benefit patients with a wide range of disorders and serious medical conditions without side effects- saving patients from taking more prescription medications. Additionally, if a patient is using medical cannabis as prescribed by their doctor or medical cannabis practitioner, the chances of developing an addiction are minimal- unlike with prescription medications. 

2. Medical Cannabis treats multiple symptoms.  A recent study focusing on medical cannabis use amongst older adults found that the rate of cannabis consumption for those aged 65 and older had the largest increase when compared to all age groups. The majority of these senior patients reported using cannabis for medical use with the main reasons being the treatment of chronic pain, anxiety, depression,and sleep disorders. Scientists have established that medical cannabis is also effective in treating a variety of serious medical conditions that commonly affect senior citizens such as arthritis, cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, and Parkinson’s Disease

In addition to treating various medical conditions, medical cannabis may also have a positive effect on the brain functioning of seniors. A recent study from the University of Bonn in Germany took a look at how THC, a chemical compound found in cannabis, affected the cognitive functioning in mice in a clinical setting. The researchers found that instead of impairing memory and learning, the THC given to mice of advanced age actually had the opposite effect- that is, the cannabis appeared to reverse age-related cognitive decline. While this study has not yet been replicated on humans, it is an important step towards understanding how cannabis can help to increase brain functioning in seniors. A similar study on humans is planned and we are eager to see if it yields similar results.

3. There are ways to take medical cannabis and not get “high”. There are many varieties of the cannabis plant with each one having its own unique profile and benefits. Certain strains are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits and are good for treating pain. Some strains of cannabis can make a person feel more focused and energized while others provide a sedative and calming effect. There are even strains which do not produce any type of psychoactive effect and as a result do not leave users feeling the “high” or euphoric feeling often associated with cannabis. Strains naturally high in the chemical compound CBD, for example, are known for their minimal psychoactive effects while still providing health benefits such as relief of inflammation, bone growth support, the suppression of muscular spasms, and anxiety reduction, among others. 

4. There are many ways to use medical cannabis other than smoking. One of the common misconceptions about medical cannabis is that patients must smoke it in order to receive the benefits. This is simply not true and there are a variety of different methods of administering medical cannabis that are not harmful to your health. Depending on a person’s medical needs and preferences, patients can choose from methods such as vaporization, edible consumption, applying it topically, and using oil droplets. Similar to smoking, vaporizing cannabis into a mist and then inhaling it will provide immediate results. Vaporizing is similar to smoking in terms of the quick relief and short-lasting effects but without the negative side effects and damage caused by smoking. Edibles are made by extracting the chemical compounds of cannabis into a carrier oil and mixed with food and/or drinks. Consuming cannabis in this way takes longer for the full effect but it is long lasting. Topical cannabis creams and ointments can help relieve aches and pains, such as in arthritis. Because these are applied topically, they do not produce any of the psychoactive properties that will make anyone feel “high” and allow for a localized effect rather than affecting the whole body. Using droplets from a cannabis oil or tincture is a wonderful way for patients to control their dosage and manage their symptoms effectively all day long. While not as immediate as smoking or vaporizing, oils have a longer-lasting effect and can be cost effective if using a small dose.

5. The stigma surrounding cannabis use evaporating. Senior citizens are the fastest-growing group of medical cannabis users and the reason must simply be that medical cannabis is working for them. The research into cannabis is showing that not only does it help ease the symptoms of many serious and complex medical issues, but it does so in a way that is not invasive and without the serious side effects that come with commonly prescribed pharmaceutical medications. It is little wonder that as the research and evidence continue to back up the health benefits of cannabis, that the stigma surrounding its use continues to fade away. 

If you or someone you love is considering a medical cannabis protocol it is advised that a cannabis doctor or reputable medical cannabis practitioner is consulted. As discussed above, there are a variety of strains and methods of using the cannabis plant. The correct strain, method of ingestion, and dosage will be unique for each patient and following the advice of a trusted medical professional is advised for the best result. 

Further reading:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-scope-prescription-drug-misuse

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3714138/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024284/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024284/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/marijuana-may-boost-rather-than-dull-the-elderly-brain/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326663/