Well over half the country permits the use of cannabis for medical purposes — which flagrantly contradicts the Federal Government’s label of cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Across the U.S., hundreds of thousands of patients rely on cannabis treatments to manage various health conditions, from chronic pain to multiple sclerosis to cancer.
As the largest group of healthcare users in the U.S., older adults stand to benefit greatly with access to medical cannabis, but many aren’t comfortable or confident with cannabis consumption. Is cannabis safe for older adults with health conditions? How can older adults use medical cannabis safely and successfully? Read on to find out.
Older Adults Have Much to Gain From Medical Cannabis
Cannabis is safe. Unlike other commonly accepted treatments for pain, insomnia and other health conditions, cannabis carries no risk for dangerous overdose, and amongst medical users, cannabis abuse is relatively rare. Though there are some medication interactions with cannabis, adverse effects tend to be mild. Even for older adults, cannabis is perhaps among the safest and most beneficial treatment options for many conditions.
In fact, for seniors, medical marijuana could revolutionize healthcare. Because older adults are much more likely to suffer from a wide array of health conditions, the availability of a single, safe treatment option that provides a wealth of benefits could radically reduce the number of medications a single patient requires, which makes it easier to maintain health and wellness. Some conditions experienced in elderly populations and managed easily with medical cannabis include:
- Chronic pain. Various health conditions, like fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, GERD and others, can cause ongoing pain that is dangerous to manage with opiates and NSAIDs.
- Parkinson’s disease. Cannabis functions as a muscle relaxant, which makes the effects of Parkinson’s easier to manage.
- Cancer. The side effects of cancer treatments tend to include intense nausea and loss of appetite. Cannabis counteracts these effects to bolster patient health.
- Insomnia. Aging often results in sleep disruptions, which can have disastrous health consequences. As a sedative, cannabis assists with safe, restful sleep.
Older Adults Can Learn About Cannabis Treatment
Though recreational cannabis is legal in an increasing number of states, older adults interested in using cannabis for the treatment of a medical condition should first consult their healthcare providers. Cannabis is effective and safe, but it isn’t appropriate for all health concerns or in every circumstance. A healthcare provider with knowledge of an older adult’s health history will be better prepared to recommend medical marijuana for unique patients.
If cannabis treatment is advised for an older adult, they will need to apply to their state’s medical marijuana program. This usually entails obtaining a written recommendation from a state-licensed provider. It could take several weeks for the application to be reviewed and accepted; some states offer temporary, printable medical marijuana passes for patients to access cannabis products in the meantime, but many simply require patients to wait. In almost all cases, medical marijuana is not covered by health insurance, but the costs of medical cannabis products are lower than recreational cannabis.
Older Adults Should Visit a Medical Dispensary for Guidance
Once an older adult has a medical marijuana card in hand, they can step foot in a cannabis dispensary. In some states, like Arkansas, all dispensaries cater only to medical marijuana patients; in other states, like Arizona, dispensaries in Tucson can sell both recreational and medical products. Fortunately, in either case, dispensary staff — who are often called budtenders — are trained to help customers find the right products to help with health conditions.
Because older adults comprise a significant portion of medical marijuana patients, budtenders are accustomed to working with customers who are unfamiliar with cannabis culture and somewhat nervous about beginning cannabis treatment. Older adults should feel comfortable directing any and all questions about cannabis to dispensary staff, who are more often thrilled to introduce a new patient to the wonderful healing properties of marijuana.
More and more research demonstrates the benefit of utilizing cannabis in medical applications, and older adults are beginning to rely heavily on marijuana to manage their health. As a safe and effective treatment option, cannabis is almost certain to spread in popularity amongst America’s population of seniors.