Let’s face it, getting old is a drag (no pun intended). Physical ailments that come with aging, such as joint pain, arthritis, depression and even cancer are typically with opiates and other pharmaceuticals. These merely numb the problem and can sometimes make things worse.
55 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers were written last year for people 65 and up. This is a 20 percent increase over five years, almost double the growth rate of the nationwide senior population. As if that wasn’t alarming enough, the number of benzodiazepine prescriptions climbed a staggering 12 percent over that period, to 28.4 million. These are unfortunate statistics when you consider that there already exists a safer and some would say, more effective alternative. It is medicine in the form of a plant that can successfully manage, and sometimes even cure, many of those health problems. That plant is Cannabis.
Cannabis has been used in healing for thousands of years. In the 23 US states that allow legal access to cannabis for medicinal purposes, countless patients have used it for years to treat pain, nausea, inflammation and many other symptoms. And many of these patients are senior citizens, who are increasingly turning to cannabis for help in managing their age-related pain and psychological issues.
The majority of seniors were raised to believe that cannabis is a dangerous drug. Since it is a Schedule I illegal drug at the federal level, many bought into the widespread myth that it is addictive and unsafe. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Cannabis can help senior citizens with their physical and emotional ailments. It can be non-psychoactive and it doesn’t have to be smoked. It can be eaten, swallowed in a pill-like capsule, dripped into a beverage as a tincture, applied to the skin like a creme or inhaled as a light vapor. It’s generally safer and more effective than synthetic pharmaceutical drugs, especially for the elderly, and is often much cheaper.
There is plenty of information out there proving Cannabis’ potentially miraculous benefits for seniors.
Outlined below are just five of the more common senior health issues that cannabis has the potential to mitigate:
Memory and brain function
While the common perception, born out of the stigmatization of cannabis, is that it impedes memory, Israeli researcher and professor of medicinal chemistry, Raphael Mechoulam has found otherwise. He is best known for isolating THC, the main active compound in cannabis. For decades he has investigated the ways human biochemistry interacts with cannabis and he has found it to help with various symptoms, including brain function.
As seniors we are faced with unique challenges that our younger counterparts do not. As the years pass, we are faced with significant life changes that can put us at risk for depression. Health issues, daily, chronic pain, isolation, recent loss of loved ones – these are real factors that the elderly are forced to face each day.
The University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions found that endocannabinoids contained in the cannabis plant may be helpful in treating depression by stimulating the endocannabinoid system and increasing neurogenesis, similar to the way many anti-depressants do but without the unpleasant side effects.
Along with age, the elderly are forced to face life events that can create anxiety in anyone. Loss of income, loss of loved ones, deteriorating health, these are events in senior’s lives that can produce underlying fear, underlying fear in the form of anxiety. Inability to eat, sleep or relax are symptoms of anxiety that many seniors deal with on a day to day basis. Cannabis has been shown to alleviate these symptoms in part because of the chemical compound Cannabidiol, or CBD, that has been found to have significant benefits for treating people with anxiety.
Cannabis has scientifically proven anti-inflammatory properties. Whether you smoke it, vape it, or apply it to the skin in the form of an oil or salve, it relaxes the muscles. A clinical study published in the journal Pharmacology by the National Institute of Health found that cannabis’ anti inflammatory properties can even effectively treat Crohn’s disease, which is a serious inflammatory bowel disease.
Cannabis has long been known to reduce pain, and it has shown to be more effective than the leading prescription treatments. According to an article on WebMD, “Three puffs a day of cannabis, better known as marijuana, helps people with chronic nerve pain due to injury or surgery feel less pain and sleep better.” The WebMD article summarized a placebo-controlled clinical trial using three different doses of cannabis. The study took place in Canada in 2010, and was led by Mark Ware, MD, assistant professor of anesthesia and family medicine at McGill University in Montreal.
Another study published in August by JAMA Internal Medicine, cannabis might actually be helping reduce abuse of opioid painkillers in the U.S. The new research finds that deaths associated with the use of opiate drugs fell in 13 states after they legalized medical marijuana. Compared with states with no formal access to marijuana, those that allowed certain patients legal access to cannabis saw a steady drop in opiate-related overdoses that reached 33%, on average, six years after the states’ medical marijuana laws took effect.
Arthritis Today published an article on new research which suggests that cannabis can ease arthritis-related pain, inflammation and more. According to the NORML website, “ Use of cannabis to treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is commonly self-reported by patients with the disease. In a 2005 anonymous questionnaire survey of medicinal cannabis patients in Australia, 25 percent reported using cannabinoids to treat rheumatoid arthritis. A survey of British medical cannabis patients found that more than 20 percent of respondents reported using cannabis for symptoms of arthritis. Nevertheless, few clinical trials investigating the use of cannabis for RA appear in the scientific literature.”
It’s no secret that cannabis boosts the appetite. Everyone’s heard of the “munchies.” According to a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience this February, the compounds in cannabis responsible for both its psychoactive and healing properties, also appear to increase sensitivity to scents and flavors.
It is very clear the senior population is one that stands to gain greatly from medical marijuana use. Many age-related conditions can be treated and even cured by its use.