Whether they’re inhaling it, baking it or using it in oil form, more and more older adults are using marijuana! For some reason getting high is associated with younger audiences and there is a lot of research that has been carried out on the health effects on younger people. However, research into the consequences of marijuana on senior people is somewhat lacking even though taking cannabis may have a myriad of healthy benefits for them!
The popularity of marijuana in older people continues to rise as a decade ago a mere 2.8% of elderly people said they had taken it whilst in 2013 a whopping 71% increase at 4.8% say they have taken marijuana (1). The benefits and risks associated with cannabis and older people will be discussed further below.
Benefits of Marijuana Use in Senior People
With so many health difficulties influencing our lives as we get older, it seems clear that finding new and more natural ways to combat some of the illnesses associated with age is the way forward. And it appears as though that is exactly what senior citizens are doing.
Cannabis is Safer Than Opioids
Unfortunately, as seniors get older, many get stuck in a vicious cycle of medications and painkillers. But, recently, the older generation has grown increasingly accepting of medical cannabis and its potential to help heal their ailments.
In March 2018, scientists published a study in The European Journal of Internal Medicine to determine the safety and effectiveness of cannabis cancer symptoms, Parkinson’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and other medical issues (compared to opioids).
“After monitoring patients 65 and older for six months, we found medical cannabis treatment significantly relieves pain and improves quality of life for seniors with minimal side effects reported.” (15)
Naturally, some participants experienced very mild side effects, including: dizziness (9.7 percent) and dry mouth (7.1 percent). However, on a scale from 0-10, almost 94 percent of them reported that medical cannabis usage reduced their pain levels from a median of eight down to four.
What was even more amazing, according to researchers was that after six months, almost 20 percent of the study participants reported that they had either stopped using opioids or reduced their dosage. (14)
Eases the Pain of Arthritis
From 2010- 2012, an estimated 52.5 million US adults (22.7%) annually had been told by a doctor that they had some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. Of people aged 65 or older, 49.7% ever reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis in the United States. No wonder scientists and researchers are looking for a natural way to help ease the pain of arthritis(2), especially since a whopping 4.6 million Canadians suffering from arthritis said that the pain was their main complaint (3).
Many people suffering from arthritis suffer from a condition called rheumatoid arthritis which can be very painful. This paper looks at the effects of medical marijuana on rheumatoid arthritis and its benefits towards lowering pain levels. Here is a guide you can follow if you believe you could use medical cannabis prescribed by your doctor for arthritis.
Here is a video with more information on cannabis and arthritis:
Helps Prevent Glaucoma
There is an estimated 3 million Americans suffering from glaucoma, being the second leading cause of blindness in the world (5). Glaucoma occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve, leading to irreversible damage and is mostly found in older adults.
One main symptom of glaucoma is high levels of pressure in the eyes and medical marijuana has been found to lower this (6). So considering older people are more at risk to suffering from glaucoma, it makes sense why they would want to up their intake of a natural medicine like cannabis.
Decreases Symptoms of Chemotherapy
One of the main side effects of chemotherapy is feelings of nausea (7). Marijuana has been found to reduce the feelings of this side effect, helping patients cope with the unfortunate circumstances they are in.
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It has also been said that cannabis can increase appetite, which can be easily lost when going through chemotherapy. And with such high statistics, with 70% of deaths through cancer being older citizens (8), it seems important to try any techniques to fight the adverse symptoms of chemotherapy.
Although there are many positives associated with cannabis use and older citizens, it is important to take into consideration the many side effects marijuana consumption can cause.
Risks associated with cannabis and the older generation
The risks associated with cannabis are clear and far more researched in comparison to the benefits when considering elderly people (9). Some of these risks are discussed below.
The increased use of cannabis in older people also increases the amount of people becoming dependent on the substance (10), especially if it is being used to prevent or help with pain. Although substance abuse in the elderly hasn’t been thoroughly enough researched to come to any claims, it is clear that there can and very much may be a serious problem associated with the use of illicit drugs and the older generation (11).
Of course, cannabis can also be associated with worsening or creating new health conditions after use. A lot of cannabis users will smoke the substance, this can lead to a myriad of lung health problems:
- phlegm production
- chronic cough
Smoking cannabis can clearly damage the lungs exponentially (12). And if you are an older citizen then your lungs may be at even more risk to damage so smoking marijuana would not be the best option.
Consuming cannabis, whether medically or recreationally has been said to have effects on mental health, from:
- Memory loss (something you probably can’t afford to lose more of as an older person)
- concentration harm
- inability to make decisions
- decreased IQ (13)
With many side effects associated with marijuana whether it is worth taking the risk or not is up to you and your doctor. Please consult your physician before consuming cannabis or any other medication you think may help with your symptoms. Although there are many benefits to marijuana it is also important to note that the research it is based upon is not solid and more information needs to be collected on the subject matter.
Furthermore, if you’re iffy about using marijuana for a number of reasons, you can always try this acupressure from aculief. It’s a natural and wearable device which goes on your hand. You can wear it all day for consistent drug-free pain relief.
(1) Seniors and Marijuana http://www.cbsnews.com/news/seniors-and-marijuana/ Published: May 1, 2016. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
(2)Arthritis Data and Statistics https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/index.htm Updated: April 13, 2016. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
(3)Cannabinoid Chronicles http://thevics.com/publications/vol8/VICSNewsVol8Issue1.pdf Published February 2016. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
The Dilemma of Medical Marijuana in Rheumatoid Patients https://muhc.ca/sites/default/files/ACR-EMBARGOED-March%203%202014-0001%20EST-Herbal%20Cannabis-Fitzcharles.pdf Published December. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
Medical Cannabis http://arthritis.ca/getmedia/99682fb5-3992-4924-895a-d5f03d16f151/Medical-Cannabis-2015-a-Guide-to-Access.pdf Published: 2016. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
(5)What is Glaucoma? http://www.glaucoma.org/glaucoma/ Published: N/A. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
(6)Does marijuana help treat glaucoma? https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/medical-marijuana-glaucoma-treament Published: June 27, 2014. Accessed: December 24, 2016.
(7)Medical marijuana and the mind http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/medical-marijuana-and-the-mind Published: April 2010. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
(8)Cancer in the Elderly https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1500929/ Published: 2006. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
(9)Substance abuse among older adults https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64422/ Published: N/A. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
(10)Demographic Trends of Adults in New York City Opioid Treatment Programs—An Aging Population http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/10826084.2015.1027929?scroll=top&needAccess=true&journalCode=isum20 Published: November 19, 2015. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
(11)The Growing Problem of Illicit Substance Abuse in the Elderly: A Review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3505129/ Published: July 12, 2012. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
(12)Marijuana and Lung Health http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/marijuana-and-lung-health.html Published: March 23, 2015. Accessed: December 14, 2016.
(13)Health risks of marijuana use. http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/healthy-living-vie-saine/substance-abuse-toxicomanie/controlled-drugs-substances-controlees/marijuana/effects-effets-eng.php Updated: May 5, 2016.
(14 )Abuhasira, R., Schleider, L. B., Mechoulam, R., & Novack, V. (2018). Epidemiological characteristics, safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in the elderly. European Journal of Internal Medicine, 49, 44-50. doi:10.1016/j.ejim.2018.01.019 http://www.ejinme.com/article/S0953-6205(18)30019-0/fulltext
(15) Medical cannabis significantly safer for elderly with chronic pain than Opioids. (2018, February 13). Retrieved March 19, 2018, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180213111508.htm
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