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Seniors and Medical Cannabis

In the United States, senior citizens compose the fastest growing demographic of medical cannabis users. In one year the number of cannabis users age 55 and over grew 53%. Seniors and cannabis? Why is this happening? The answer has many components.

Senior citizens often find themselves taking a number of medications to combat the effects of getting older. Unfortunately, a lot of the medications that are prescribed for these conditions have side effects of their own; alleviating these negative effects often means taking even more drugs. A lot of seniors have gotten to the point where they just don’t want to be taking 20 pills a day, and they have found that cannabis can take the place of most, if not all, of these medications while also avoiding the negative side effects caused by many pharmaceuticals.

Twenty years ago, most seniors would not even consider “pot” as an alternative treatment for their health issues. However, with the recent legalization of medical cannabis in 30 states, and the increase in research in other countries that indicates its efficacy related to medical use, more and more older Americans are embracing cannabis as a way to maintain their quality of life as they age.

Medical Cannabis May Help

Cancer

Marijuana helps slow or even stop the growth of cancer, in effect causing the tumor cells to commit suicide. “THC interacts with specific cell surface receptors. It is analogous to a key entering a lock. This triggers a reaction inside the cell. Unexpectedly, reaction in normal cells is significantly different compared to the reaction in cancer cells. In cancer cells, these reactions lead to cell death. In normal cells, it doesn’t. This surprising difference is likely due to two things: a greater number of receptors on the outside of the cancer cells and a different type of reaction inside the cancer cells as compared to the normal cells.” (Constance Therapeutics)

Anorexia

Loss of appetite and the consequences of not eating enough contributes to almost 80% of senior deaths. Marinol, a synthetic form of cannabis, has been used as an appetite stimulant for cancer patients since it received FDA approval in 1985. The endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptor plays an important part in appetite stimulation and pain control. Regulating these two factors is important in maintaining a healthy eating pattern.

Chronic pain

The endocannabinoid system plays an important part in regulating pain. When your body is injured, endocannabinoids stimulate your immune system to begin the healing process. Cannabis helps regulate this system through a natural process, because cannabinoids are naturally occurring in the cannabis plant. They bind to the receptors found in our body and encourage healing, thereby decreasing pain. In a recent study, over 93% of patients reported a decrease in pain from 8/ 10 to 4/10 when using the 0-10 pain scale. (ejinme.com) In fact, over 18% of patients either decreased or eliminated their opioid intake because of using cannabis during this timeframe.

Anxiety and Sleep Disorders

THC and CBD work in tandem to decrease anxiety and help people sleep better. It is important to note, however, that this is a dose-related benefit. Too much cannabis can actually increase anxiety. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the effects of using too much THC. These include CBD oil, deep breathing, chewing on peppercorns, drinking passionflower tea, listening to music or watching a TV show, taking a shower, or engaging in mild exercise. CBD alone is also effective for treating anxiety.

Parkinson’s Disease

Cannabis use has been found to be helpful in reducing muscle stiffness, tremors, falls, pain, and depression related to the initial stages of Parkinson’s disease. (NCBI)

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is caused by a buildup of plaque in the brain. The combination of THC and CBD has been found to slow down the production of beta-amyloid cells, the major contributors to this condition. It also decreases inflammation, which helps slow the progress of the disease. While it is not a cure, it can certainly make life better and slow the progression of the disease. (MMJHerb)

Multiple Sclerosis

Studies have shown that cannabis can help with the pain, spasticity, bladder problems, and stiffness associated with multiple sclerosis. The CBI and CB2 cannabinoid receptors seem to play an important role in this relief. Currently, studies are being conducted to see if cannabis indeed slows the neurodegenerative process that characterizes multiple sclerosis. It is evident that the side effects of cannabis are much less acute or dangerous than those of the multiple drugs currently used to treat MS. (SafeAccessNow)

Depression

According to a recent study, between 10% and 30% of people who take pharmaceuticals for depression experience little to no relief from that medication. Conversely, utilizing cannabis high in CBD has been noticed to elevate the moods of depressed people. Micro-dosing seems to be most effective for depression, since it helps maintain a more consistent level in the bloodstream. It is important to note, though, that high-THC strains of cannabis can actually exacerbate the symptoms of depression because of the potential for psychoactive effects. (Journal of Affective Disorders)

This is by no means an exhaustive list of conditions helped by medical cannabis (MMJ), but it should provide a basic idea of the many ways seniors can benefit from using it.

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