Why Are More Seniors Than Ever Before Turning To Medical Marijuana?
Seniors are using marijuana in increasing numbers. Pegasus senior care professionals in Monrovia and elsewhere know that some of their clients are among the users. They have compiled this summary of the medical pros and cons in response to questions they’ve been asked.
Statistically, older adults are the largest group of new marijuana users. Thousands of individuals are turning 65 each year. Some have never tried marijuana, and others smoked it in their youth and are resuming use.
All are interested in learning if it will relieve medical conditions that accompany their mature years. They have to experiment because there are no controlled studies. They’re relying on personal experience and anecdotal reports of effectiveness from friends or family.
Under Federal Law Marijuana Is Illegal, But Many States Have Legalized It
Medical marijuana is prescribed by a physician to treat a specific medical condition; recreational marijuana is not prescribed. State and local laws vary significantly as what is legal and what is not. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) considers all use of the plant illegal, but have approved three marijuana pills.
Scientists have not been able to conduct clinical trials on the effectiveness of marijuana. The FDA won’t approve any product for medicinal use until they have data from extensive testing. Until marijuana is deemed legal on the federal level, controlled trials can’t take place.
Several critical processes in human bodies are managed by the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters, and the ECS has receptors they bind to. Once the endocannabinoids complete their function of balancing body processes, enzymes destroy them.
Marijuana floods the receptors with cannabinoids. That affects the ways nerves function, including the ways signals, are sent. That can have a positive or negative effect on physical and mental conditions.
Cannabis, Marijuana, Pot, And Weed Are All Names For One Plant
Cannabis is the botanical name for certain members of the hemp family. Marijuana is one of two species: cannabis indica and cannabis sativa. Pot and weed are the most common slang names.
Cannabis contains more than 100 substances called cannabinoids. The two with medicinal properties are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive ingredient that makes people “high.”
CBD does not cause euphoria. Epidiolex was recently FDA-approved for treating epilepsy. It is the only approved drug containing real CBD.
In states where physicians are allowed to prescribe marijuana, CBD is used to relieve the following conditions:
- Anxiety and depression
- Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (IBD)
- Mental conditions, including psychosis
THC can be prescribed for many of these same conditions if individuals don’t mind getting high.
THC can help with additional conditions that include:
- Eating disorders
- Lack of appetite
- Spastic muscles
Any prescriptions must be filled in marijuana dispensaries.
Pain Relief Is The Biggest Reason Seniors Turn To Medical Marijuana
Although CBD and THC help with several conditions, both are most often prescribed for pain relief. Doctors are charged with reducing opioid use. Marijuana is their best non-drug option but prescribing it put them at odds with federal law.
If marijuana is illegal and prescriptions can’t be filled at the corner drug store, why are so many seniors using it? The reasons vary, but include the following because it is:
- Less addictive than some prescription meds
- Safer than some prescription meds
- More effective for some conditions than prescription meds
- Less expensive than many prescription meds
Some use cannabis products in combination with their prescription meds. That is risky unless done under medical supervision.
Marijuana can be consumed in a variety of ways. It can be inhaled by smoking or “vaping.” Some individuals prefer it as edibles, pills, drops, or oils, or brewed into tea.
Others use it in the form of salves, lotions, gels, or ointments on their skin. That’s particularly effective for arthritic pain. Cannabis is also available in time-release patches.
Not Every Senior Should Use Marijuana
Marijuana in any form isn’t safe for everyone. Smoking cannabis can damage airways in the lungs. It can also contribute to bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.
Individuals with heart conditions should probably avoid using cannabis. It can increase the heart rate and blood pressure. In the worst case scenarios, it leads to blockages in arteries that can result in heart attacks or strokes.
Marijuana increases the effects of some prescription meds. Individuals taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) or diabetes medicines must adjust their dosages. On the bright side, marijuana does not reduce brain function or intelligence in seniors.
There’s conflicting evidence as to whether cannabis is helpful with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. It seems to have helped some individuals. Others have experienced memory difficulties and impaired ability to think.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Since 1994, we’ve helped individuals remain safe and independent in their home. We strive always to help each person improve their quality of life.
Our senior care in Monrovia and our other locations include providing individuals with:
- Medical Care
- Recognition as an individual, not a diagnosis
We offer all individuals whatever level of help they need to accomplish their day-to-day tasks and meet their challenges.