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More Older People Saying Yes to Marijuana. Here’s Why.

Leigh Ann Hubbard December 17, 2018

As marijuana laws evolve, more and more older people are partaking—munching edibles, dropping oils, smearing creams. This pot revolution isn’t about getting high; it’s about reaping medical benefits. The substance is legal for medical purposes in many states, but illegal at the federal level.

To help further the conversation, we’ve curated articles that illuminate the evolving intersection between elders and herb. Also check out these stories we curated on marijuana in seniors housing.

Headlines & Insights
Curated excerpts from though-provoking articles.

Day-Tripping to the Dispensary: Seniors in Pain Hop Aboard the Canna-Bus
Kaiser Health News / Stephanie O’Neill

Derek Tauchman rings up sales at one of several Bud and Bloom registers in the dispensary. Fear of getting high is the biggest concern expressed by senior consumers, who make up the bulk of the dispensary’s new business, he said.

“What they don’t realize is there’s so many different ways to medicate now that you don’t have to actually get high to relieve all your aches and pains,” he said. …

The limited research that exists suggests that marijuana may be helpful in treating pain and nausea, according to a research overview published last year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Less conclusive research points to it helping with sleep problems and anxiety.

Medical Marijuana for Older Adults
U.S. News & World Report / Lisa Esposito

“What’s very exciting is there’s some suggestion that cannabinoids can be useful for a type of pain that isn’t well-treated by other drugs – neuropathic pain.” …

Just as with any FDA-approved prescription drugs, you should discuss possible marijuana side effects and drug interactions with your pharmacist or health provider.

“As people get older, the way their body processes medication, including marijuana, is different than it was in their 20s,” says Laura Borgelt ….

With conditions such as diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the impact of marijuana isn’t yet known, Borgelt says. However, fall risk is an obvious concern for older adults. “We know that marijuana can create cognitive impairment and slow cognitive processes,” she says. “It has also shown some [short-term] memory impairment.”

Medical Guidelines in the Works to Clear Up Confusion About Cannabis for Seniors
CBC News [Canada] / Olivia Stefanovich

“The marketing of marijuana has really overshadowed the science,” said Rand Teed, a drug and alcohol counsellor and consultant in Regina who is part of the coalition.

“The information that doctors have received so far has been quite confusing for them in many cases. Initially, Health Canada approved cannabis for use with anxiety, but in lots and lots of cases, cannabis increases anxiety.”

Is Marijuana Safe for Older Adults?
UCHealth Today / Katie Kerwin McCrimmon

“We know that THC (tetrahydrocannabinoal) is psychoactive and the aging brain is more vulnerable to psychoactive drugs. So we tell our patients that they have to be very careful when using THC.” …

… Fixen’s key advice is that if seniors are going to use marijuana, they should look for forms that contain a higher CBD component, as it does not have psychoactive properties like THC.

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Leigh Ann Hubbard

Leigh Ann Hubbard is a freelance journalist specializing in aging, health, the American South and Alaska.

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