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Medical Marijuana for Senior Citizens

What is medical marijuana?

Today’s medical marijuana is indeed the same marijuana that has been used for thousands of years to treat many ailments. Unfortunately, during the last century, we have been told marijuana is bad for us and will cause such things as Reefer Madness, or that the use of marijuana would cause us to become criminals and lead us to the harder drugs of heroin and cocaine.  The result of the propaganda surrounding marijuana in the 1900s is that we have lost nearly 100 years of the best medical research, leaving us with several generations that are afraid of a plant yet are ok with being prescribed highly addictive and dangerous opioids.

Today we understand that medical marijuana can be used to treat some diseases, or at least treat the symptoms of diseases.  This is especially beneficial to senior citizens as cannabis can be a safer and more cost-effective alternative to opioids and antipsychotics and cause fewer side effects.  Seniors, who account for 15% of the population, are prescribed a great deal more medications than the remainder of the population - being prescribed 30% of all prescriptions. The cost difference can be $3000 spent per year on prescriptions to the national average of $650 spent on medical marijuana per year.  Even with the increasing amount of money spent on prescription painkillers, seniors are often not finding relief of their chronic pain.  Medical marijuana, when given a chance, can bring the relief many are searching for.

What are some of the diseases and ailments that marijuana can help with?

Cancer

Marijuana has been promising for cancer patients, and especially those going through chemotherapy.  Marijuana has been shown to help ease nausea and vomiting and pain associated with the disease.

General Pain

To be able to feel the benefits of marijuana when it comes to pain it may be reassuring to some that one does not need to smoke it or otherwise ingest it to feel the benefits.  There are creams and rubs that can help manage the pain of arthritis and joint pain.

Alzheimer's Disease

Some patients with this disease have symptoms such as depression and loss of appetite.  Studies have shown that THC could help slow the advancement of the disease and manage the symptoms.

Eating Disorders

Surprisingly, nearly 80%of the deaths that occur due to anorexia are within the elderly population. As we get older food can become less appealing either due to medications or actual changes within the body.  The lack of desire for food is often treated with antidepressants or antipsychotics which can worsen the problem instead of helping. Marijuana can be a safer alternative and will not cause the side effects of prescription medications.

Glaucoma

The typical treatment of glaucoma is prescription drops that relieve the pressure in your eyes.  Marijuana has been proven to relieve the pressure in the eyes as well.

Is it safe?

Before beginning treatment with marijuana, your doctor should be consulted to give you advice.

The number of seniors who are using medical marijuana has increased significantly because of the relief it provides for the ailments above, but many still wonder if it is safe to use.  One study shows there are links between the use of medical marijuana and fewer opioid deaths, less opioid addiction, and fewer prescriptions of opioids. While some medical practitioners are concerned with the use of marijuana by seniors it is recognized that opioid use is a much bigger problem.  Additionally, there is no specific or unique risk to elderly consumers.

What should I buy?

You have thought about using medical marijuana for some time and have asked your doctor for advice, and after this consideration, you have decided to give medical marijuana a try.  What should you buy? A trip to the dispensary can be overwhelming to even a seasoned user. Your medical needs, physical abilities and budget may help you narrow down the choices. Some ways to utilize marijuana include:

Smoking

This is often the cheapest and quickest way to feel relief.

Edibles

Often a very popular method to consume marijuana, be careful when starting and begin with a very low dose and increase very slowly as edibles affect your body differently than smoking does.

Vaping

Very similar to smoking, a vaporizer turns the cannabis into a vapor that is not as hot as smoke, but hot enough to provide medical benefits.  This option is more expensive than smoking with the tradeoff being it is less harsh on your lungs.

Topical lotions and creams

This is a great alternative to use when you have muscle soreness and stiffness.  You can target one specific area for treatment and using it will not make you high.

Where can I buy Marijuana?

Medical marijuana is available in 33 states and Washington DC.  Many if not all of these states require a prescription to be able to buy medical marijuana.  It is often purchased at a dispensary and as it is still illegal on the federal level, each state will have different laws regarding where you may buy, how much you may possess, and where you can consume.  Recreational marijuana is allowed in 10 states. Acceptance is continually increasing and with this increase, additional states will likely begin to pass laws allowing for either medical or recreational marijuana.  There are some exciting bills and laws that are being introduced, even at the federal level. Research the laws where you live and understand that marijuana, either medical or recreational, cannot be brought across state lines.

Where can I learn more?

The internet has so much information which can cause a lot of confusion to even the most sophisticated internet researchers.  Two of the best resources are leafly.com and hightimes.com.

https://www.theseniorlist.com/blog/seniors-guide-medical-marijuana/

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/14/the-mature-stoner-why-are-so-many-seniors-smoking-weed

https://hightimes.com/health/medical-marijuana-given-seniors/

Rose Jacobsen