MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR ELDERLY PATIENTS
Seniors often take up to ten pills per day to cope with these diseases, the major surgeries they require, and the emotional distress they cause.
This ‘polypharmacy’ model of treatment becomes more and more dangerous as the number of drugs increases. This is because the reactions between drugs can’t be known. As doctors mix and match, patients suffer.
Why Are Seniors Using Medical Cannabis?
“A lot of the things marijuana is best at are conditions which become more of an issue as you get older. Chronic pain, inflammation, insomnia, loss of appetite: All of those things are widespread among seniors.” Taylor West, Deputy Director of the Denver-based National Cannabis Industry Association.
For the former high school principal, 68-year-old Sue Taylor, marijuana helps her live better. Taylor told CBS News, “Number one is arthritis. There are tinctures and rubs that you could actually put on your legs, on your knees, across your back, wherever you’re having any arthritic pain. Most seniors use the cannabis for pain and to sleep.”
Renee Lee, President and “kind of pot guidance counselor” at Walnut Creek, a retirement community in California told CBS News, “We caution, especially the seniors, to stay away from edibles, and really start slow. We start with low dosage, we start in the early evening, telling them not to drive, not to mix alcohol. There’s a lot of cautions, a lot of education that goes along with it.”
Perhaps Taylor summed it up best in explaining the trend to CBS News:
“Seniors don’t want to get high; they want to get well,” she said. “And the cannabis helps.”
Cannabis and Brain Function
A new study in the journal Nature Medicine suggests that a regular low dose of THC restores cognitive function in old mice. THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana (Cannabis sativa).
The importance of reducing prescription drug use among the elderly can not be understated. Drug abuse among people over the age of 65 is already an epidemic; nearly 55 percent of opioid prescriptions were written to seniors in 2013 (even though they make up only 13 percent of the population) which is an increase of more than 20 percent over the previous five years. The tragic risks of this issue becomes even more clear when you know about the increase in drug-related emergency room visits among seniors.
Seniors are more likely to take multiple prescriptions, too, and may abuse or misuse their medication for many reasons including memory loss, increased tolerance, and worsening medical conditions. This leaves older adults more vulnerable to drug-related injuries (including death) as they attempt to balance multiple medications at a time.
Related: Medical Cannabis for Sleep Relief
By using cannabis to supplement prescription medication, seniors can help protect their bodies from a prescription drug cocktail. Once they’ve begun using CBD and THC products, many seniors find that they no longer have a need for their prescription synthetic drugs.
“Life is not a bitch and then you die when you’re 50,” Taylor said. “You can live a thriving, useful life as you age. But you can’t do it if you’re on 15 pills. That robs you of the happiness that you deserve. Cannabis can help people in our age group live better lives.”