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Across the country, more and more older Americans are using medical cannabis for their health needs. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of adults 65 and older in the US who use medical cannabis “increased sharply from 0.4% in 2006 - 2007 to 2.9% in 2015 -2016.” (1) Of the over 37,000 medical cannabis card holders here in the Beehive state, close to 25% are over age 55. (2)
If you are reading this article, you may be in this age bracket too (or you may be helping someone who is). You may be curious about how to use medical cannabis safely and effectively. Whether you are living in your own home, with family, or in a designated senior community, cannabis could help you. The easy guidelines and basic information in this article can help get you started.
Medical cannabis helps people of all ages with dozens of conditions. A brief search on PubMed can produce over 2,000 articles on all the different ways medical cannabis can help with pain management alone, for example. (3) That being said, there are certain conditions that affect older individuals in particular, such as sleep, anxiety/depression, and, of course, pain.
Recent studies have also shown how medical cannabis can help with sleep in people in their later years. An investigation conducted at the University of California, San Diego found that regular cannabis use in people aged 50-70 correlated to greater sleep time overall. (4) A report published in 2020 in the British Medical Journal found that individuals over 50 with chronic pain who used medical cannabis had less issues with waking up at night (when compared to a control group who also had chronic pain but did not use medical cannabis).
“After adjustment for age, sex, pain level and use of sleep and anti-depressant medications, MC [medical cannabis] use was associated with less problems with waking up at night compared with non-MC use,” the researchers from the University of Haifa in Israel reported. (5)
Of course, pain is another broad category that many older Americans suffer from. Cannabis has been used for decades to help with many kinds of pain, including pain from arthritis, migraines, muscle aches, back and neck issues, and gastro-intestinal distress, as well as generalized pain and fatigue. An impressive study conducted in 2019 at Ben-Gurion University in Negev, Israel looked at self-assessed effectiveness of cannabis use for pain in both women and men with a median age of 82. After six months of use, close to 85% of respondents said that they felt “some degree of improvement in their general condition.” (6)
As more and more older Americans seek out legal medical cannabis, common concerns naturally arise. One of the most common is: Will cannabis negatively effective my brain health?
Studies indicate that the answer may be “no” for most older individuals. A very recent report put out in the journal Drug Alcohol Review found that regular moderate medical cannabis use does not affect cognition in a negative way. (7)
On the contrary, other studies have found that regular use may actually have neuro-protective effects. (8) (9) That being said, certain cautions should be considered for older adults.
The most important thing to remember is to “START LOW and GO SLOW.” This is really good advice for anyone of any age, actually. When it comes to those over 65, however, it is imperative that you start out gradually since side effects of too much THC, such as dizziness, anxiety, and nausea, can have more severe an impact on overall health in older individuals.
The Utah Department of Health recommends that older people just starting out with medical cannabis begin with about half the normal starting amount, or roughly 1 mg THC per dose. They suggest upping this dose to 2.5 mg over the course of several days, if desired and if no negative side effects are felt. (10)
Another thing to consider is how cannabis may interact with other medications you may be taking. About 90 percent of older Americans are on some sort of prescription drug, so this is a very real concern for most people. Keep in mind that the cannabis plant has over 600 different phytochemicals in it. What’s more, THC-heavy strains and products available today are much more potent than they were in years past.
The very best thing you can do for your overall health as well as for safety is to consult with a qualified professional before you begin any cannabis product. We suggest that you talk to one of our Doctorate-level pharmacists who are available every day to assist you at WholesomeCo!
Because our pharmacists are trained in both pharmaceuticals and medical cannabis, they can answer any questions you may have about contraindications with prescription drugs as well as answer questions about strains, products, doses, and other issues.
Contact them today and be connected to a helpful WholesomeCo professional within 24 hours!
These days, older Utahans live in many different kinds of situations. You may reside in your own home, with family members, in an apartment complex, in a 55 or 65 and older community, in an assisted living community, or in a nursing home.
If you are currently living in an assisted living or nursing home environment and want to try medical cannabis, or you are already a card-holding medical cannabis patient and are considering assisted living, there may be some other considerations to keep in mind.
The most important thing in either scenario is to be clear about what the cannabis policy is in the home or unit you are living in (or looking at). Medical cannabis is legal to those who have obtained a card and are registered with the state. However, private communities may have their own policies, especially regarding vaping.
In addition, keep in mind that any organization which gets federal funding may have further limitations regarding medical cannabis use in their facility. This is because, even though cannabis may be in many states, it is still considered a “Schedule 1” drug at the federal level. This may be an issue especially for those who live in nursing homes. (11) (12)
Medical cannabis is definitely becoming more accepted these days, not just amongst seniors in general, but amongst those organizations that serve them. Case in point is the 38 million-member AARP, arguably the largest senior-focus non-profit special interest group in the country. A 2019 statement announced their support for medical cannabis use amongst the population they serve and in states that have legalized it. (13)
They also recommend, however, that individuals discuss their unique health needs with their physician as well as other professionals (such as the super-helpful pharmacists at WholesomeCo!).
Once you have a gameplan for your medical cannabis use, then WholesomeCo makes it even easier for you by providing the most convenient, state-of-the-art delivery service in the state. We service 99% of the entire card-carrying population in the state so be sure to check if we deliver in your area. Then CLICK HERE to get started with your order (as well as your payment) easily and efficiently and all online!