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A Guide to Cannabis for Seniors

Posted on October 05 2020

A Guide to Cannabis for Seniors

As we age, so do our bodies and mind. Unfortunately, with an increase in years lived comes an increase in ailments, aches, and pains. Many of our seniors turn to prescription medications to help manage the ailments, and the number of pills they take daily is concerning. Research suggests that people ages 65-69 take around 15 prescriptions per year on average, with most of the prescriptions being at least a once-daily pill. The number goes up with years. The same study says that people ages 80-84 take an average of 18 prescriptions every year. cannabis for seniorsMany of our seniors can manage daily life without their medications, which is unfortunate since many prescription medications also come with their own range of side effects. In many cases, yet another medication is prescribed to help treat these side effects. The cycle continues, which leaves many of our elderly taking a handful of pills before breakfast every day.

Luckily, other options are emerging. As we learn more and more about cannabis, we are learning that it may be useful for treating a range of ailments commonly found in seniors. Cannabis may also have less negative effects than countering prescriptions and may treat several ailments at once. This could put an end to the prescription epidemic and help our seniors find wholesome, all-natural relief in the cannabis plant.

Cannabis May Treat Many Age-Related Ailments

One reason that many seniors are talking to their doctors about cannabis is that it may be able to treat a range of ailments that commonly occur as we age. Here are some conditions that may benefit from cannabis use:

  • Arthritis: Cannabis has shown potentially positive effects in the treatment of inflammation and pain, which may make it useful for the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions causing pain in the joints. Many people find that the effects are very immediate and that they have an increased range of motion and less arthritis pain after dosing.
  • Pain: Cannabis has shown a great effect on pain, including chronic pain. It binds with pain receptors in the brain to block signals of pain and prevent pain before it happens. One WebMD survey showed very promising results in seniors who used cannabis to treat chronic pain. 9 out of 10 people who used cannabis for pain liked it so much they said they would recommend it to others. Cannabis may be an alternative to other pain medications, like opioids, which have potentially serious side effects, like toxicity in high doses and potential for forming an addiction.
  • Glaucoma: Studies show that THC is able to reduce intraocular pressure (IOP), which is the main cause of eye-related pain and discomfort in glaucoma patients. By reducing IOP, cannabis may be able to reduce discomfort and prevent the condition from worsening in many patients.
  • Dementia: Although more research needs to be done, some research shows that cannabis may be able to help control some behavioral issues related to dementia. Cannabis is often related to dementia because it has a direct impact on the hippocampus or the part of the brain that is mostly responsible for the onset of dementia. 
  • Insomnia: Sources show that whole-plant cannabis when used before bed, may be able to help you relax and promote restful sleep. Cannabidiol, when used alone, has been shown to have wake-promoting effects that may help regulate sleep-wake cycles. By regulating these cycles and promoting wakefulness during the day, it may also be able to help create restful, regular sleep patterns at night.
  • Nausea/Appetite Loss: Research shows that cannabis may be potentially useful for helping manage nausea and vomiting and increase appetite. Cannabidiol, when used alone, may help reduce nausea and vomiting due to illness or other ailments, like headaches or medication side effects. Whole-plant formulations are often known to induce a hearty appetite, which can help seniors manage their weight.

  • Cannabis may be responsible for reducing other ailments as well. Some research looks at the effect of cannabis on multiple conditions, including neurological conditions like epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. Other studies aim to identify cannabis as a potential treatment for multiple sclerosis. Other research looks at its effects on psychological disorders, like anxiety and depression.


    Cannabidiol for Seniors is a Cannabis Option Without the High

    While cannabis may be useful for treating a range of symptoms that occur as we age, the psychoactive effects of THC may not be appropriate for everyone. For senior patients who want to try the benefits of cannabis but don’t care for the psychoactive effects of THC, cannabidiol may be an option.

    Like THC, Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid that naturally occurs in the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol products include CBD isolate and broad spectrum CBD products, both that contain no THC. Cannabidiol may also help reduce many of the symptoms listed above, like pain, inflammation, and sleep disorders. One exception includes the treatment of glaucoma, which responds specifically the THC molecules in cannabis.

    Cannabis Side Effects

    Cannabis does have a few commonly related side effects, but they are comparably mild when considering the potential effects of many prescription options. Whole-plant cannabis products (with THC) have a longer list of side effects than CBD products. The potential effects of whole-plant cannabis include increased blood pressure and pulse, dilated eyes, increased appetite, and distorted perception of space and time. THC alters your state of consciousness and created the “high” related to marijuana. Other effects can include anxiousness, paranoid thoughts, and impaired coordination. Because of it’s impairment to coordination, you shouldn’t drive or operate machinery while intoxicated.

    Alternatively, one study looked at the side effects of cannabidiol. The study found the most common results to be tiredness, diarrhea, and changes to appetite and weight. Most experts agree that ingesting cannabis alone cannot be fatal.


    Should I Use Cannabis for Age-Related Ailments?

    If you think cannabidiol or cannabis is a great option for you or a senior you care for, talk to your doctor. With the emerging medical market, more and more doctors are becoming educated on cannabis uses and dosing for all patients, including seniors. Your doctor can help you decide if cannabis is the best option for you or a senior in your life. cbd for seniorsIn some cases, it may also be useful for replacing some of your current medications. You should never stop taking any medications unless recommended by a doctor. Cannabis may be able to replace multiple medications, but the transition should be made slowly and with a doctor’s guidance. Together, you and your physician can design a cannabis or CBD regimen that works to help you control your age-related ailments. Your doctor will be able to help you understand your options, including the multiple consumption options available for seniors. If you decide to give cannabis a shot, you may be surprised at how quickly you find relief.