That’s because, like the rest of the population, seniors are opting to use cannabis for medical ailments, like pain, instead of prescription drugs. With the increased popularity and decreased stigma of the plant, seniors are more open than ever to try cannabis.
A 2018 study of seniors found 93.7 percent of patients felt improvement from symptoms like pain after taking cannabis for six months. What’s more, 18 percent of participants stopped or reduced, taking opioids by using cannabis.
The opioid epidemic has hit seniors as well as other age demographics. In 2013, 55 percent of opioid prescriptions went to seniors even though they only accounted for 13 percent of the population. Opioids can be extra dangerous for seniors because they increase the risk of falling, mental confusion, and dependence, according to the Globe and Mail.
Want to recommend cannabis as an alternative treatment for your parents or grandparents? Check out our list of the top 10 reasons seniors are using cannabis.
1. Chronic Pain
From fibromyalgia to arthritis and nerve pain, chronic pain debilitates many seniors. But cannabis for seniors is changing that. Cannabis can help treat neuropathic pain and pain caused by arthritis and inflammation because of the body’s endocannabinoid system. When cannabis is ingested, its compounds, including THC and CBD, inhibit pro-inflammatory molecules in the body and interact with other natural pain-killing systems, like the body’s endogenous opioid system.
Seniors don’t have to smoke a joint for pain relief. There are tons of edible and topical cannabis products that can get the job done, like Mellows Marshmallows and Apothecanna Extra Strength Relieving Body Creme. Plus, if grandma doesn’t want the psychoactive effects of marijuana, she can opt for a hemp-derived CBD product for all the medical benefits of cannabis without the high. Try introducing CBD oil or CBD capsules to your grandparent and see how they feel. Plus, hemp-derived CBD products can be shipped to all 50 states.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness for people over 60. Glaucoma is a condition of increased pressure in the eye caused by fluid buildup that damages the nerves. To combat Glaucoma, patients need to relieve that pressure, which is typically done with prescription eye drops. But, these eye drops can be expensive and have to be applied many times throughout the day.
This is another way cannabis for seniors is a game changer: marijuana naturally relieves that pressure and the effects last for hours. One of the biggest proponents of cannabis for glaucoma is Whoopi Goldberg. She wrote an article for the Cannabist called, “My vape pen and I, a love story” where she describes how vaping cannabis helps with her glaucoma and the headaches it induces.
3. Alzheimer’s Disease
Cannabis has shown incredible potential for both the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It sounds counterintuitive, but studies have shown that micro-doses of THC have the ability to slow down and even reverse the production of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain. These proteins are toxic and form “plaques” that prevent the brain from accessing information. But that’s where cannabis for seniors comes in: THC interacts with the brain’s own, natural endocannabinoids to prevent cell death and fight build up.
More research is desperately needed, but that’s the catch in the U.S. Because of the government’s “Schedule I” classification of the plant, performing clinical studies and trials is virtually impossible. In the meantime, however, many seniors are living by the motto: “A joint a day keeps dementia away.”
4. Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease is a degenerative disorder that causes dopamine-producing brain cells to die. Because dopamine helps the body control muscles and move smoothly, Parkinson’s is characterized by uncontrollable tremors, shaking, and muscle spasms. Dopamine deficiencies also cause symptoms like:
- Loss of balance
- Rigid muscles that are difficult to move
- Sleep issues
- Loss of cognitive functions
- Memory loss and dementia
The exact cause of dopamine-producing cells to die is still unknown and there is no effective treatment for Parkinson’s, only medication to help mitigate symptoms.
However, a study in Israel on the effects of cannabis on Parkinson’s found symptoms like tremors and rigidity were significantly decreased after patients smoked cannabis. Read Herb’s complete coverage of cannabis and Parkinson’s disease here.
One of the main reasons medical marijuana laws were passed in California in the 90’s was the plant’s ability to help cancer patients. Initially, marijuana clearly helped side effects cancer treatment, like chemotherapy, caused, including pain and nausea.
But, further research has also shown that cannabis kills cancer cells. Plus, the plant’s compounds have been shown to slow the proliferation of different types of cancer, including breast, prostate, and lung cancers. What’s more, researchers from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine found cannabis to prevent “metastasis”, which is the spreading of cancer cells to healthy tissue.
Although we wouldn’t recommend replacing your mom or grandma’s cancer treatment completely with cannabis, it can be a beneficial addition to their routine. It’s just another way cannabis for seniors is revolutionizing health care.
It is hard to watch loved ones lose unhealthy amounts of weight. Yet, it is common for seniors, especially those in pain, to lose their appetites and desire to eat. It’s not only hard to watch, it can be lethal. In fact, according to a 2014 study, seniors account for 78 percent of anorexia deaths.
But that’s another way cannabis for seniors is beneficial: it improves appetite. More than the munchies, cannabis can help seniors become hungry, stomach meals, and enjoy one of the simplest pleasures in life again: food.
Many seniors find they sleep less than they did when they were younger. What’s more, the elderly suffer from insomnia and difficulty staying asleep. But sleep is crucial to living a healthy life and for recovering from sickness and injury. That’s where cannabis for seniors plays a part.
Certain type of cannabis, like indica-dominant strains, are known to relax the body and make people sleepy. Even “highless” cannabis products, like CBD oil, have sleep-inducing properties. Tons of people are turning to cannabis to help them sleep, young adults and seniors alike.
In fact, according to the latest Eaze State of Cannabis Report, 95 percent of sleeping pill users surveyed in California have reduced their sleeping pill usage by using marijuana and its derivatives. Unlike sleeping pills, cannabis is all-natural and doesn’t leave users feeling groggy in the morning.
8. Crohn’s Disease
Nearly 800,000 Americans suffer from Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and weight loss. It’s a tough condition to live with and does not have a cure. In fact, it seriously affects sufferers’ quality of life. But cannabis help for seniors and younger adults alike. Cannabis helps to control Crohn’s disease symptoms and provide much-needed relief during flare-ups.
What’s more, there is some preliminary evidence to suggest cannabis can actually help send Crohn’s Disease into remission. That’s because Crohn’s is basically an inflamed gastrointestinal (GI) tract and cannabis fights that with its anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, there are cannabinoid receptors throughout the GI tract. Plus, according to a 2014 study, Crohn’s patients who used cannabis had no negative side effects and increased appetites. Cannabis for seniors is definitely worth considering for Crohn’s.
Depression among seniors is widespread. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 7 million Americans over the age of 65 become depressed each year. Sadly, according to the same report, seniors made up for 16 percent of suicide deaths in 2004. But again, that’s another use of cannabis for seniors.
Cannabis is known to improve mood and decrease anxiety. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons people of all ages use cannabis. No one wants to see their loved ones depressed, so cannabis can help. Try providing your mom or grandma with a low-THC, high-CBD strain or cannabis product for depression and see how they feel.
10. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects more than 2.3 million people of all ages worldwide. Symptoms of MS include muscle spasms, gastrointestinal distress, and pain, both muscular and neurological. Cannabis can help relieve MS symptoms, therefore improving the quality of life for MS patients. Plus, cannabis is one of a few substances that can promote neurogenesis, according to a 2017 study. It’s one of the many ways cannabis for seniors is helping to make pain, and therefore life, more manageable. Check out Herb’s in-depth coverage of cannabis for MS here.
These are just the top ten ways cannabis for seniors is changing the lives of tons of people over 65. If your parents or grandparents still believe in the “reefer madness” stigma, show them this article and help them get the right type of cannabis for their pain.