Medical Marijuana for Seniors

The Complete Guide to Medical Marijuana for Seniors - October 16, 2019

A CBS News report says that Americans over the age of 55 use more and more marijuana, and many of them live in the regions where cannabis is legal. According to Money, seniors seek out cannabis legalized states for retirement moves.

The use of cannabis among seniors is on the rise. It can help in combating many illnesses from chronic pain to Alzheimer’s disease. Medical researchers have found that it’s an effective, safe alternative to opioids.

Despite the federal ban, 33 US states allow medical use of marijuana. Each state has a different set of MMJ qualifying conditions and regulations for consuming, buying and possessing the herb.

What’s Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana isn’t cannabis you purchase in the street. But, it comes from properly grown plants, which contain ultimate medicinal benefits. It has over 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. The two most important cannabinoids are—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which can help in alleviating symptoms of many elderly conditions.

The question—is marijuana safe for seniors—is under debate. However, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved dronabinol and nabilone, two synthetic forms of marijuana, and clinical studies are finding the herb’s potential for treating different conditions.

How Can It Help Older Adults?

Let’s discuss the major elderly illnesses, which can be managed using medical marijuana.

Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease. And, by 2050, the number is projected to rise to about 14 million.

Alzheimer’s patients forget recently learned things, important dates, and events. They ask the same questions again and again and often need listening aids. Other symptoms include-

  • Difficulty handling daily tasks
  • Confusion with time/place
  • Inability to planning or solving problems
  • Misplacing things
  • Mood swings
  • Avoiding going social
  • Making poor decisions
  • Misplacing things

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease can benefit from medical marijuana. The cannabinoids can help relieve symptoms such as depression and loss of appetite. A 2014 preclinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found the effects of THC on beta-amyloids. Researchers found that THC slows down the advancement of beta-amyloids, thus treating Alzheimer’s disease.

Marijuana is a safe alternative to prescription medications, as a result, more Alzheimer’s patients are turning to the herb. Last year, Minnesota announced adding Alzheimer’s disease in its MMJ qualifying conditions list.

Cancer

Age increases the risks of cancer. Although chemotherapy can help in treating this condition, it is associated with certain side-effects, and marijuana can help in alleviating those. These include-

  – Nausea And Vomiting

The FDA-approved nabilone and dronabinol can help in treating nausea and vomiting, which can’t be controlled with medications.

  – Pain

Marijuana can help in reducing cancer-related pain by binding to the receptors in the brain and other regions of the body. Additionally, it also alleviates inflammation, which is also linked to pain.

  – Appetite

Dronabinol is effective for loss of appetite in AIDS patients. However, some studies show that cancer patients can also boost appetite using medical marijuana.

The effectiveness of marijuana in treating cancer patients depend on the method of consumption. If you consume through the mouth, it will take hours to be absorbed, and then processed by the liver, thus producing the second compound, which affects the brain differently.

However, if you inhale the herb, THC enters the bloodstream and delivers quick effects. The second compounds are produced in small amounts, delivering minimal effects.

Chronic Pain

Seniors are more likely to experience chronic pain than the general population. According to a recent report by NIH study, about 53% of the older adults have bothersome pain in the last month, and ¾ of them have pain in more than one location. Bothersome pain also resulted in reducing physical activity.

There exists an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for translating signals from cannabinoids in the body. Marijuana interacts with the system, thus regulating various functions, including pain.

CBD boosts anandamide, a neurotransmitter that reduces the sensitivity of pain. Medical studies have found that anandamide along with 2-Arachidonoylglycerol, works for reducing inflammation and stopping hyperactivity.

Anxiety & Depression

Anxiety and depression are common mental health conditions, which affect more people over 55. The major reasons why seniors experience such illnesses is that they take more medications, have had more losses, etc.

Fear of death, loss of a family member, and worrying about everything are some of the common phobias in older adults, and thinking about these continuously can result in panic attacks, chest pain, dizziness, and anxiety.

Researchers have found that CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis, can help in treating mental health issues such as—general anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression.

CBD works the same way as anti-anxiety medications i.e. stimulating serotonin receptors in the brain. When compared with prescription medications, medical marijuana is less addictive.

Recent surveys proved that the number of opioid prescriptions has reduced following medical cannabis legalization in various states. They also reported fewer deaths by prescription medications and reduced number of patients misusing opioids.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are common among the elderly. About 80% of the deaths in seniors occur due to anorexia. The conditions involve losing the desire to eat because of own false beliefs about body image or other psychological reasons.

Poor eating can link to bone loss, heart problems and other chronic illnesses. Consuming marijuana can help patients improve their eating habits and gain weight.

Researchers have confirmed that in anorexia and bulimia patients, the body’s ECS is impaired, thus they see food as undesirable. Medical marijuana interacts with the system, boosting appetite, and making the brain look food as a reward again.

Although antidepressants and antipsychotics can help in treating eating disorders, they may link to several side-effects or may worsen the symptoms. Many expert doctors believe that medical marijuana for seniors with eating disorders is an effective, safer alternative to prescription drugs.

Getting Legal Access to Medical Cannabis

Though under federal regulations, marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug along with heroin, there’re many states where you can smoke it for medical purposes. If you’re interested in using the medicinal benefits of the herb for managing your condition, you require a licensed doctor’s recommendation. The recommendation letter will state that you want to use marijuana medically, not recreationally.

With telemedicine services, it has become easier to receive your MMJ recommendation letter from home. The process involves-

  • Signing up an account
  • Seeing a licensed doctor online
  • Receiving your medical marijuana recommendation letter in pdf through the email

When using medical marijuana for treating your conditions, dosage, consumption method, and strain type play important roles. So, make sure you discuss your condition with an expert doctor and get sound advice on how to use the herb for maximum health benefits.

Conclusion

As people age, they usually experience conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, chronic pain, cancer, etc. Although prescription medications can help in alleviating these illnesses, they are linked to various side-effects.

Also, some medications may worsen the patient’s condition. Medical marijuana is a natural medicine for seniors, helping them manage various health issues, and it doesn’t cause any side-effects as prescription drugs do.

The herb works by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system of the body, thus regulating various bodily functions such as sleep, appetite, mood, and memory.

The effectiveness of cannabis for alleviating symptoms depend on various factors such as dosage, strain, and method of consumption. Talk to a licensed doctor, and get sound advice for what’s right for your condition.

Have you ever used cannabis for medical purposes? How was your experience using it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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