SEP 12, 2018 12:23 PM PDT

Elderly Turning to Marijuana to Relieve Their Ailments

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

More seniors are increasingly turning to medical marijuana to treat their medical issues. From chronic pain to rheumatoid arthritis to insomnia, seniors are heading to marijuana dispensaries by the (literally) busloads to treat these and other disorders. This is according to the latest results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) which looks at tobacco, alcohol, and drug use, mental health, and other health-related issues in the United States.

Photo credit: CNN

A new study published by Dr. Joseph Palamar in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence compared the results from this year's NSDUH study to previous reports and found that seniors have had a seven-fold increase in rates of marijuana use over the past decade. Dr. Palamar, an associate professor in the Department of Population Health at New York University Langone Medical Center, notes that today's elderly population, who grew up in the 1960's era of drug experimentation and free love, are not novice pot smokers. "I don't think we need to worry about millions of older people trying weed for the first time," Palamar said. "At least not yet."

While this trend may seem unsurprising for some (marijuana is claimed to be beneficial to many ailments from which the elderly population is prone to suffer), there are some alarming results from this study. For instance, many of those surveyed often misuse other substances such as alcohol and prescription painkillers. This "polysubstance" use is particularly dangerous for seniors who have chronic health conditions. Plus, adding marijuana to the mix can have deleterious consequences due to unforeseen drug interactions.

Furthermore, there is the legality of the matter. While in some states like California and Colorado medical marijuana is legal, many states have not yet joined the bandwagon. With more and more elderly patients asking their doctors whether marijuana would be an appropriate treatment, both patients and medical practitioners must be mindful of state laws. This is particularly important for those who use marijuana on their own.  

While the many health benefits of marijuana have been touted by pro-legalization groups in this country, there are still many adverse effects of marijuana use of which patients should be aware. This includes impaired judgment, impaired motor skills (which could interfere with driving and increase the chance of injury), and even paranoia and psychotic episodes at high doses.

Photo credit: Pixabay.com

Also important to keep in mind is the lack of quality studies on the effects of marijuana use on seniors. Dr. Namkee Choi, a professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin who was not an author of the study, points to a research paper published in 2017 in the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Choi remarks how this previous study illustrates the fact that, while the risks of marijuana use in the mental health and well-being of adolescents have been well-documented, the effects on much older populations are less well-known.

Still, with more and more states overturning their strict marijuana laws, it isn't hard to imagine more and more seniors heading to dispensaries over pharmacies for their medication. 

Source: CNN, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, The New England Journal of Medicine, UNM Newsroom

 

 

About the Author
  • I currently work at a small CRO involved in clinical trial management.
You May Also Like
AUG 12, 2020
Health & Medicine
Boomers Use Cannabis Mostly for Ailments; Millennials for Recreation
AUG 12, 2020
Boomers Use Cannabis Mostly for Ailments; Millennials for Recreation
A survey by marijuana dispensary chain Verilife has found that older and younger cannabis consumers have very different ...
AUG 20, 2020
Health & Medicine
Does Recreational Marijuana Out-of-Hours Affect Work Performance?
AUG 20, 2020
Does Recreational Marijuana Out-of-Hours Affect Work Performance?
Imagine that after a busy day at work you kick back with a relaxing cannabis joint. In many states that is now entirely ...
SEP 15, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabis Blood Tests Unreliable for Testing Intoxication
SEP 15, 2020
Cannabis Blood Tests Unreliable for Testing Intoxication
Researchers from the University of British Columbia have found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compoun ...
OCT 03, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabis Compound Prevents Colon Cancer in Mice
OCT 03, 2020
Cannabis Compound Prevents Colon Cancer in Mice
Second only to skin cancer, colon cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the US. Now, resea ...
OCT 20, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Legal Cannabis Does Not Increase THC Overdose in Dogs
OCT 20, 2020
Legal Cannabis Does Not Increase THC Overdose in Dogs
Researchers have found that whether or not cannabis is legal does not affect the rate at which dogs are hospitalized for ...
DEC 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
Could CBD be a food preservative?
DEC 31, 2020
Could CBD be a food preservative?
CBD (cannbidiol) oil from has many claims made for it — and now lengthening the shelf life of fresh fruit could fe ...
Loading Comments...