Several new studies have revealed something interesting about medical marijuana users in the United States: A growing number of them are seniors.
Based on results from the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, mmj use among adults age 65 and over increased by 250 percent from 2006 to 2013. Not far behind, adults between the ages of 50 and 64 saw a nearly 60 percent increase in the use of medical cannabis.
Why are more seniors looking to mmj for relief?
One reason may be that the stigma surrounding medical marijuana use is slowly going away.
With more states putting laws on the books to legalize the use of mmj, a lot of elderly patients are paying attention and proactively seeking information about the potential health and wellness benefits of cannabis. As a result, they are more likely to talk to their peers and their health care practitioners about giving it a try.
It could also be that seniors are looking for a more natural alternative to managing their chronic conditions—one that comes with fewer side effects. Take opioids, for example. These potent narcotics, often prescribed for pain management, are known to produce severe side effects that often negate their potential benefits. Medical marijuana, however, has been shown to provide similar pain relief benefits without the resulting nausea, constipation or potential for dependency.
What are some key benefits of mmj for seniors?
Pain relief. Chronic pain is a common complaint among elderly patients. According to the journal Practical Pain Management, the most common causes of chronic pain in seniors include arthritis, cancer, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular and neurologic diseases. While medical marijuana may not eliminate pain completely, in many cases it reduces the severity of pain levels and enables patients to regain a measure of function and mobility.
Anti-inflammatory benefits. Many chronic conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and some types of cancer, are the result of an abnormal immune response in the body, which triggers inflammation. In studies, cannabinoids (the active components of the marijuana plant) have been shown to support a healthy immune response and suppress inflammation to help provide relief.
Fewer prescription medications. It is estimated that a quarter of U.S. seniors take at least five prescription drugs every day, many of which are often unnecessary or are used to treat the side effects of other drugs. However, medical marijuana has been shown to provide health benefits without harsh side effects and may help reduce the need for a multitude of other medications.
Are there any drawbacks?
One of the few complaints from seniors who use medical marijuana as part of their treatment plan is that their insurance companies will not cover the cost. This is because mmj is technically still illegal at the federal level. However, because using medical cannabis may reduce the need for other medications, it is possible the out-of-pocket expense may be more manageable.
It is also worth noting that here in Arizona, qualifying patients on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may be eligible to receive a patient card for $75 instead of $150. You can read more about that here.
Will medical marijuana kill my brain cells?
No. This is a common misconception about marijuana, often perpetuated by the portrayal of the “stoner” persona in movies and popular culture. In reality, clinical studies have found the opposite to be true: Using medical marijuana may actually improve cognitive function in seniors and slow the progression of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s by stimulating the creation of new neural pathways in the brain.
Is smoking the only option for mmj treatment?
It often comes as a surprise to new patients to learn that smoking is not the only way to reap the benefits of medical marijuana. Cannabis products are now available in a wide variety of forms, including:
Edibles: Edible cannabis products are a popular alternative for those who want the benefits of medical marijuana without smoking. Types of edibles include everything from candy, chips, baked goods, drinks, oral sprays and mints. With edibles, it is best to start with a low dose and give your body time to adjust and feel the effects. The effects you feel from consuming an edible will be different than smoking- so always be sure to give yourself a few hours before consuming more.
Concentrates: Medical marijuana concentrates are made by extracting the active components of the flower. As a result, they can be several times more potent than regular flower. Concentrates may be consumed using a vape pen, as an oral tincture, by adding them to flower before smoking, or by dabbing (inhaling heated concentrates).
Topicals: Cannabis topicals are medical marijuana-infused oils, creams and ointments that are applied to the skin to relieve pain and discomfort. They are a safe and easy way of using medical marijuana and suitable for patients who want the benefits without the high.
For elderly mmj patients, it is often best to start with a smaller dose and work your way up to determine your personal tolerance level. Even if you used marijuana in your younger days, many health practitioners recommend using caution when introducing medical cannabis into your treatment plan. If you have questions about dosage, a Desert Rose Dispensary agent can talk to you about your individual needs and help you settle on the right dose.
More questions about mmj? Come see us in Phoenix.
As awareness grows about the potential health benefits of medical marijuana use for older patients, we hope to see even more individuals come through our dispensary doors. Many of our senior patients tell us they are glad they took a chance on mmj and say they have not only experienced comfort and relief, but also a better overall quality of life.
Call Desert Rose Dispensary at 623-516-7881 or stop by any day of the week from 8:00AM to 7:00PM to talk to one of our friendly and knowledgeable dispensary agents. We take the time to answer your questions and go over your treatment options to help you on the path to feeling better. Finally, if you are new to Desert Rose, be sure to ask about our current first-time patient deals!