Now that medical marijuana is legal in over 50% of the states and recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states, can you guess which demographic is using cannabis more than any other? If you said teenagers or 20- somethings you would be way off because it turns out it’s seniors. In fact, cannabis use among seniors increased by 250 percent from 2006 to 2013. So, why is there such an increase in usage among this demographic? FirstLantic explores some of the benefits for older people including treating conditions like general pain, side-effects of cancer, anxiety and depression.
Almost everyone over 50 has experienced some age-related aches and pains. Whether it be back problems, sore joints or muscles or even early stages of arthritis, medical marijuana can help. Whether it’s smoked, consumed, or applied through a topical treatment, it can aid in the relief of acute and chronic pain most likely because there are natural cannabinoid receptors that we already have in our body and that doctors think play a role in pain control. Despite making up less than 15 percent of the population, seniors are prescribed more than one-third of all prescription drugs in America often with the intention of treating chronic pain. Medical marijuana is a healthier alternative because it does not have the addictive tendencies of opioids.
Anxiety and Depression
Studies have shown that cannabinol (CBD), one of the two main chemicals in marijuana used for medical purposes, can help treat anxiety and other mental health issues, including: obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, moderate depression and general anxiety. Essentially, CBD helps stimulate serotonin receptors in the brain, which is the main goal of other anti-anxiety medications like Zoloft and has mentioned above it has been proven to be far less addictive than many prescription drugs. It has also been shown to relieve depression for Alzheimer’s patients. In 2014, a study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease that analyzed the “potential therapeutic effects of THC” on the disease and results “strongly suggested that THC could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s.
The most common use of medical marijuana to date has been to help cancer patients going through chemotherapy which often causes nausea, vomiting and appetite loss. One study points out that most patients (more than 60 percent) experience both nausea and vomiting and cannabis can help relieve both of those symptoms as well as help patients get their appetite back. In addition, scientists reported that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD that are found in marijuana may actually slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes.
In summary, cannabis can be one option for senior dealing with pain and other conditions such as anxiety. And while it may not work for everyone, there is scientific evidence that supports certain benefits. In fact, marijuana has been used in herbal remedies for centuries. And for those seniors looking for more information, one of the newest ways to get educated are “pot parties”. At the typical pot party, the host has a speaker come to their home to provide an audiovisual presentation with educational information on medical marijuana. Guests get an overview of cannabis and how it can be used their health. Many senior centers are now also offering seminars. The bottom is that no matter what you decide, make sure to educated yourself first.
Additional resources listed below.
Harvard University Health Blog
National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health
National Institute on Drug Abuse