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She said she was taking “10 [medications] a day, four times a day, and [wasn’t] getting any better.” After trying doctor-prescribed marijuana, her pain went away. Renee Lee smoked marijuana as a young person. She got back into it more than 12 years ago. At that time, she had just gone through brain surgery and other major medical procedures.  She had been learning about cannabis for seniors so she decided to give it a try. 

Lee went on to create the Rossmoor Medical Marijuana Club in 2012 at her San Francisco Bay Area retirement community. Today, her club has more than 1,000 members. They host special events, including talks by pro-cannabis doctors and nurses.

For retirement communities in California, a trip to the cannabis shop has been one of their weekly outings for quite some time, and today, a growing number of seniors around the country have begun treating ailments including arthritic pain, sleeplessness, and other conditions that develop with age using marijuana. CBD benefits for seniors appear impressive and many older folks are swearing by the cannabinoid. 

Last year’s General Social Survey found that a record 61 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana with Americans over the age of 65 increasingly supportive. These statistics reinforce a 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that discovered four of five doctors approve of medical marijuana and that more than 90 percent of medical marijuana patients (of around 7,500 surveyed) said cannabis helped treat their conditions. Seniors were the largest age group in the study (more than 2,300 respondents), which also included responses from 1,446 doctors from 72 different countries and 56 different states and provinces in North America. 

Kelly Richardson is a registered nurse with the Holos Health clinic in Boulder, Colorado. The clinic provides medical exams and sells doctor-approved cannabis. She says her average customer is 60 years old.

Joseph Cohen, Holo Health’s medical director, holds “Cannabis 101” classes at the nearby Balfour Senior Living community to inform people about which kinds of the plant are best for easing arthritic pain and which are best for sleep problems.CBD for senior citizens might help them gain a good night’s sleep. 

Professor of psychiatry and aging at the University of California, Los Angeles Gary Small cautions that dangerous side effects exist for older people using cannabis. Too much can lead to memory problems and dizziness. Dizziness leads to falls, which are the primary cause of fatal injury and the most common reason for nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.

With proper dosing, hemp oil for seniors and cannabis are proving very safe and effective for a growing list of health conditions. The majority of pot’s therapeutic properties have been attributed to CBD and THC, two of the over 60 cannabinoids discovered among the 400 chemical compounds in the plant. Scientists believe many of the unresearched compounds possess therapeutic benefits as well.  CBD products for seniors are definitely on the rise. 

Current studies have found cannabis treats many conditions common among older populations:

Cancer

Marijuana helps with nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. More than 60 percent experience both of these symptoms, so medical marijuana can help relieve two symptoms (and potentially many more) at once. Two THC-infused oral pills that have been approved by the FDA: Marinol and Cesamet. 

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s patients turn to cannabis to help with depression and loss of appetite that may come along with the degenerative brain disease. About 10 percent of seniors have Alzheimer’s. In 2014, there was a preclinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease that analyzed the “potential therapeutic effects of THC” on the disease.” Researchers introduced THC to beta-amyloids, which are clumps of proteins that build upon the brain, indicating the presence of Alzheimer’s. THC helped slow the advancement of these beta-amyloids. The results from the study “strongly suggested that THC could be a potential treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.”

Pain

Nearly all seniors experience some type of pain. Cannabis treats pain by acting on the body’s already-present cannabinoid-receptors. Certain cannabinoids in marijuana regulate these receptors (CBD). Others interact with them to both decrease inflammation and the sensation of pain (THC). Dr. Igor Grant, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego says that there is significant peer-reviewed scientific evidence that “cannabis is helpful in the management” of pain and researchers have demonstrated its effectiveness in treating joint pain (like arthritis), nerve damage, and chronic pain (like cancer).

Anxiety

Studies have shown that cannabinoid cannabinol (CBD)  helps treat anxiety and other mental health issues, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, moderate depression, and general anxiety. Harvard’s health department points out that about 20 to 30 percent of recreational users say smoking high-THC marijuana causes anxiety or panic attacks so results in treating anxiety can be dependant upon choosing the right variety of cannabis.

Glaucoma

Marijuana is proven to help relieve intraocular pressure for hours at a time. According to eye doctors, you need to reduce pressure in your eyes throughout the entire day to help combat glaucoma.

Brain Health

Degenerative brain disease affects more than four million Americans’ cognition and memory every year. A study done at the University of Bonn in Germany looked at how small doses of THC affected brain cognition in the young, mature, and elderly. While THC inhibited the cognition in younger subjects slightly, the two older groups performed better on cognitive tests. The older generations had tested worse than younger subjects on the examination before using marijuana.

The main reasons seniors cite for trying medical cannabis: cost, safety, and help with sleep. A senior typically spends close to $3,000 per year on prescription drugs alone, while medical marijuana users spend less than $700 annually. Barring making the mistake of an extremely high dose, cannabis side effects tend to be minor compared to pharmaceutical counterparts and even at high doses cannabis poses no serious risk to health making it “worth a try” for many seniors desperate for relief. Many seniors suffer from chronic sleeplessness, often due to pharmaceutical side effects, and as we know, rest is critical in maintaining health and recovering from a disease.  Medical cannabis users report longer, deeper sleep. It makes a lot of sense that older Americans are finding great benefits in the healing plant. CBD for seniors has become a very popular supplement. 

Bibliography

Cao, Li, Yaqiong, Liu, Hui, Bai, Mayl, Jonathan, Lin, Xiaoyang, Sutherland, Kyle, Neel, Cai, Jianfeng, and Ge. “The Potential Therapeutic Effects of THC on Alzheimer’s Disease.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. January 01, 2014. https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad140093.

“The Complete Guide to Medical Marijuana for Seniors.” Aging.com. https://www.aging.com/the-complete-guide-to-medical-marijuana-for-seniors/.

“Medicinal Use of Marijuana – Polling Results | NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMclde1305159.

Sutherland, Stephani. “Marijuana May Boost, Rather Than Dull, the Elderly Brain.” Scientific American. May 10, 2017. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/marijuana-may-boost-rather-than-dull-the-elderly-brain/.

Voa, and Voa. “More Older Americans Using Marijuana to Treat Pain, Other Conditions.” VOA. April 01, 2019. https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/more-older-americans-using-marijuana-to-treat-pain/4852320.html.

“Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis.” The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/.

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