Older people inevitably gain more health issues due to the long-term damage to their bodies. It’s part of life. Most costs of health care are borne by the elderly. Taking multiple prescription drugs is common, often with a lot of side effects attached.
Pain management is a common reason elderly people need medication, but the two main classes of pain relievers have some pretty severe side effects. NSAIDs, which cover most over–the–counter pain relievers, are damaging to the liver and stop working with chronic use. Over time, the dosage gets so high that the side effects aren’t worth the risks.
When patients reach this point, their doctors often reach for opioids. But opioids are addictive and also lose efficacy over time. Stronger and stronger medication is needed to dull the pain. By the time a patient is deep into old age, they may be out of options that won’t cause further harm or dependency.
But there may be a better way to help older people with their ailments than prescription drugs. Medical marijuana works with our body’s endocannabinoid system to provide a host of health benefits. There have been some promising studies about how marijuana can help with chronic health conditions. Here are a few things that have been discovered.
Doctors approve of it
In 2013, a survey in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that 80% of doctors approve of medical marijuana and that more than 90% of the 7500 surveyed patients said that they experienced an improvement in their condition. Seniors represented just under a third of that group.
The survey also showed that healthy individuals weren’t overusing the drug when they needed it for occasional use, like for migraine treatment. Like other pain relievers, you can take it as needed. Just turn on your dry herb vaporizer.
Chronic disease treatment
A study released in 2019 by the American Academy of Neurology found that medical marijuana helps with pain, sleep disorders and anxiety due to chronic illnesses. These illnesses include neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord damage, multiple sclerosis and Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).
The study looked at 204 people with an average age of 81. The group took THC and CBD, the core cannabinoids in marijuana, via a vape pen or through tinctures at various ratios. They took the medicine for an average of four months and had regular checkups.
69% of the people reported improvement in their symptoms. Furthermore, 32% of participants were able to reduce their usage of opioid medications. Unlike opioids and NSAIDs, marijuana has not shown to have long–term negative effects on the body with chronic use. For pain management in the elderly, marijuana may be the best option.
However, a small percentage of patients reported excessive sleepiness, balance problems, or gastrointestinal issues from taking the medication, but the researchers said that the marijuana–based treatments were “well–tolerated”. Some patients were helped when the ratios of THC and CBD were adjusted. More research is needed to find the optimum mix, but the participants preferred a 1:1 ratio of these two substances.
THC has also shown promise in treating a disease that affects 10% of seniors: Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2014, a preclinical study used THC on the beta–amyloid plaques that are the hallmark of this disease. THC slowed the growth of the plaques. However, studies of how marijuana affects Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia still need to be performed.
The long decades of marijuana prohibition have prevented scientists from studying medical marijuana more closely. But now that the ban is getting lifted in states across the country, scientists are discovering numerous medical benefits locked inside the once-maligned drug. As funding and greater legal access improve, marijuana may soon be a regular part of any gerontologist’s tool kit.
Michael is a writer and content marketing strategist with 10+ years of experience currently enjoying his work at GotVape. His idea is to break some of the stereotypes people have towards health. He gets motivation by doing things he always assumed he can’t do but secretly wanted to try. Work hard, challenge yourself, stay focused, take a rest, and surround yourself with good people – this is the path to a balanced life.