Kimberly Delmonico Ocbmagonline contributor
A recent study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggests that the use of cannabis by adults aged 50 years and older is increasing. The study analyzed data gathered by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2015 and 2016 and compared it to the data collected by the same survey in 2013. In the more recent survey, about 9 percent of U.S. adults between ages 50 and 64 and about 3 percent of people over 65 used cannabis the previous year. In 2013, the same survey reported that 7 percent of Americans aged 50-64 and 1.4 percent of people over 65 had consumed cannabis during the same period.
What Is Causing the Increase in Senior Cannabis Use?
Seniors are increasingly using medical cannabis for the treatment of conditions including cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, anxiety, glaucoma, and general pain. They are attracted to the beneficial effects of medical cannabis that don’t come with the side effects that come with some traditional prescription medications.
One of the primary reasons that seniors are using medical cannabis is because is has been shown to help cancer patients. Some studies have shown that smoking cannabis can be helpful in treating the nausea and vomiting that comes from cancer chemotherapy. Other studies have shown that inhaling cannabis can be helpful in the treatment of neuropathic pain. Yet other studies have shown that people who took cannabis extracts in clinical trials needed less pain medicine.
The FDA has approved two different THC-infused oral pills to help cancer patients with nausea. There have also been studies that are investigating the possible effects that cannabis could have on preventing or reducing tumors, stimulating appetite, pain relief, and preventing anxiety. However, at this time, there is not enough evidence for the National Cancer Institute to recommend that patients inhale or ingest cannabis for a treatment for cancer-related symptoms or side effects of cancer therapy.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. By 2050, that number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Patients with Alzheimer’s often suffer from depression and loss of appetite. Medical cannabis can help with these symptoms.
Additionally, a 2014 preclinical study that was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that THC helped slow the advancement of beta-amyloids, which are proteins that are one of the leading signs of the presence of Alzheimer’s. The results from the study “strongly suggest that THC could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.”
Studies have shown that cannabidiol (CBD), which is one of the main components of medical cannabis, can be helpful in treating anxiety and other mental health issues including: obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and panic disorder (PD).
These studies have shown that CBD helps to stimulate serotonin receptors in the brain. This can cause an anti-anxiety effect. However, while medical cannabis may help treat anxiety in some patient, 20 to 30 percent of recreational cannabis users report that using cannabis actually causes anxiety or panic attacks. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to consult with a medical professional when trying medical cannabis.
Glaucoma is an eye condition where the optic nerve becomes damaged over time and reduces side vision. It is the leading cause of blindness for people over the age of 60. One of the causes of optic nerve damage in glaucoma is higher-than-normal pressure within the eye, or intraocular pressure (IOP). Studies have shown that smoking glaucoma can lower intraocular pressure.
As more and more studies are done on the beneficial effects of medical cannabis, it is likely that more and more seniors will be turning to cannabis for therapeutic relief of their symptoms. For more information on medical cannabis programs across the country, see our overview here: https://www.ocbmagonline.com/latest-news/an-overview-of-cannabis-programs-in-key-states/.