Why are more senior adults consuming medical marijuana? The facts

by Scott Elliot

There’s no secret about it – more and more “distinguished” patients, so to speak, are coming in droves to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of taking medical marijuana.

Patients in their 60s facing kidney problems can no longer take certain maintenance medication for conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and others. The same is true for septuagenarians (and above) – some are looking for a sleep aid that’s “natural” and has less side effects than the usual medications.

Others are more comfortable expressing the idea of consuming medical marijuana, while others prefer to keep it discreet.

Based on a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association,  cannabis consumption among senior citizens aged 65 and above is increasing. Let’s find out why this is becoming a trend in 2021.

 

Why is it becoming more and more popular?

Many factors contribute to the increasing popularity of medical marijuana consumption. Key ones include the drastic reduction of the stigma associated with marijuana use, as well as the worldwide interest in its medical use coming from more mature patients.

More states are approving medical marijuana – if not outright totally legalizing recreational marijuana consumption – and have some form of legal access to it.

The AARP has unequivocally supported the medical use of marijuana for senior citizens in legal states, following the advice of their health professionals. This was made after a thorough consultation, weighing in the latest evidence, and carefully laying out the pros and cons for it.

 

What conditions do senior adults use medical cannabis for?

There’s no doubt that senior citizens use medical marijuana exactly for the same reasons younger patients do, particularly for treating anxiety, insomnia, inflammation, or pain.

 What risks do senior adults face for using medical marijuana?

This is a new space that has just breached the acceptable norms of public discourse. And, considering the fact that there haven’t been many individuals who report their use, apart from the stigma that its use still faces, many adults choose to keep their consumption discreet. Its illegal status in certain states and jurisdictions still keep the risks uncertain, in spite of its being well-tolerated by the body at any age. There are always pros and cons, as we will see.

 

The link between cardiovascular health and medical cannabis consumption

Cannabis may increase blood pressure and heart rate; however, there aren’t many proofs that link marijuana use to coronary events. However, it is still recommended for older patients with coronary disease to get some screening prior to taking medical cannabis.

 

Interactions with multiple medications

Generally, senior individuals tend to have comorbidities and may be under several prescriptions for maintenance. Cannabis has over 500 chemicals, and its primary active components in its cannabinoids THC (the psychoactive components) and CBD (cannabidiol) may reduce or add to the concentrations of other medications you’re taking. This interaction is due to liver enzymes that help metabolize the active ingredients in your medication. In particular, CBD may compete for the same resources that need to process and expel the drugs from your system.

Caution should be taken by individuals that use anti-seizure drugs with blood thinning ingredients, as they may have serious contraindications. Conversely, any consumption of marijuana should be made known to your medical professional, particularly when you plan to undergo surgery in the future. That’s because medication for pain management as well as anesthesia may need to be adjusted for dosage.

 

Pros and cons of the “high”

Marijuana’s psychoactivity – or the high – may be a cause for concern for senior citizens, particularly those at risk for cognitive or mental health issues. However, with the abundance and supply of medical cannabis in dispensaries, it is easier to control the dosage and types of marijuana consumed by adults.

Generally, it’s easier to avoid the psychoactive components of marijuana – the THC – if its content is lower than its CBD content, which is non-intoxicating. This provides an opportunity for senior patients who wish to avoid the “high” of marijuana while enjoying the full benefits of its medicinal effects.

However, if a patient has any history of psychiatric issues, discretion is advised.

One interesting development is the recent research that medical cannabis consumption may actually increase cognitive function as a result of improved rest, sleeping, and pain management. It’s therefore entirely plausible that older patients tend to reduce their dosage of pain and sleep medications, which may impair mental function. This, while fighting the effects of long-term pain and insomnia, which hamper mental performance. But as with much of the purported benefits involving cannabis, more research is required to confirm this finding.

 

Conclusion

It’s no secret that cannabis consumption is increasingly rising in popularity among senior citizens due to the improvement of its reputation for medical use and its increased public acceptance. Medical marijuana is fast being accepted as an efficient, low-cost option to manage pain and treat sleep problems. The bottom line? Talk to your doctor to see if medical marijuana can help you with your health conditions, after carefully weighing out the safety risks for patients with long-term illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, age-related mental health concerns, or issues.

 

It’s critical to inform yourself and your doctor as much as possible about medical marijuana before using it. Many of the side effects linked to marijuana consumption are largely related to the dosage, so it is crucial to understand the potency and the strain of marijuana you plan to take and start with a low dosage, and slowly increase if necessary. Work your way up to a dose that treats your symptoms with the least amount of side effects possible.

 

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