Why More Seniors are Choosing Medical Marijuana

 

America is aging.  By year 2050, the population of America 65 years or older will be an estimated 83.7 million people. [1] Cannabis use is increasing among these older Americans. Between the years 2000 and 2015, cannabis use for persons older than 50, changed from 1% [2] to 9% past year usage. Medical marijuana is even gaining popularity among people in their 70s and 80s! [3] There are reasons that seniors are now choosing to take medical marijuana.

Seniors are choosing to use medical marijuana because it often will work, when their current medications are not working sufficiently. Many of their medications’ adverse effects are making their lives unbearable. Medical marijuana is not addictive unlike many prescription medications. On top of that, costs of medications are increasing every year.  Even if they just pay copay, their prescriptions often cost too much for their budget.

Studies have found that medical marijuana use among the older Americans is decided by state laws, social attitudes, their health conditions and prescription medications. [2] The state of Florida allows medical marijuana use for a number of qualifying chronic conditions.  Many older Floridians have qualifying health issues for medical marijuana. No matter which qualifying condition you have for medical marijuana, our Florida Medical Marijuana Doctors at DocMJ can help you with all of your medical marijuana needs.

Social attitudes are shifting, from a negative perception that was sold and maintained to the public via the media for eighty years, to a positive one. In 2006, Wang and Chen did a study which suggested that attitudes changed more easily, when the issue becomes more relevant.  When a person is in a health crisis, it suddenly becomes more relevant to them, and they become open to new ideas. [2] Many seniors are deciding to consume medical marijuana, for a number of reasons. These reasons will be addressed below.

Seniors have medical conditions that are frequently undertreated or misused by prescription medications.

Doctor David Casarett, a neurologist, performed interviews with his patients concerning medical marijuana.  He states that he found several takeaways from these discussions. The first was that, YES, medical marijuana did indeed have benefits.  Also, there are a number of conditions which might be undertreated or misused by prescription drugs but are helped with medical marijuana:

 

 

  • PAIN-The pain might be from cancer. Pain is often constant with cancer. The degree of pain can be very high, with relief lacking. This is in spite of the fact that the patients may be taking heavy duty pain medications, even opioids. Chronic pain can drastically decrease quality of life. The person may become bed bound and not even eat. Because medical marijuana affects all the body systems, it can work with cancer patients in multiple ways. Not only does it help relieve pain, nausea, and anorexia, it also decreases inflammation [4].  It helps the body’s multiple systems to reboot after radiation or chemotherapy.

 

 

  • NAUSEA/ANOREXIA-  Those who are cancer patients may also have nausea and anorexia (lack of appetite), as well as hormone deficiencies secondary to chemotherapy or radiation treatments.  This can cause cachexia, which is severe loss of muscle and fat tissue, as well as hormone deficiencies.  In fact, it is the leading cause of death from cancer.  Medical marijuana (Delta-9-THC) can decrease nausea, improve appetite, as well as reboot hormone production. [4] This literally saves lives. At the same time, very high levels of medical marijuana have been shown to cause cancer cell apoptosis, which causes cancer cells to die. [5]

 

  • CHRONIC PAIN- Medical marijuana decreases a number of different types of pain.  It can help pain from arthritis via creams, rubs, or lotions. Neuropathy or nerve damage pain can also be alleviated with medical marijuana. Pain from other chronic diseases such as MS, lupus, or diabetes can be decreased.  [4] Patients frequently can decrease opioids or taper off of them entirely while taking medical marijuana. Deaths from opioid use also decrease.  

 

  • EATING DISORDERS-  The endocannabinoid system helps reboot the brain, so that the person sees food as a reward again. Those with anorexia (or bulimia) will start eating again with medical marijuana.  This is very important with seniors, since appetite can be decreased by loss of smell, loss of taste, various medications, dental issues, cancer treatments, or emotional issues.  Lack of income to buy food, decreased ability to shop and lack of energy to cook can also be factored in. Nearly 80% of deaths from anorexia occur among the elderly. [4]   

 

  • ANXIETY OR MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES- With the cannabinoid, CBD  mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) can be treated.  CBD  works in a similar method to anti-anxiety medications, but without the addiction.  It stimulates the serotonin receptors.  However, some people have increased anxiety with medical marijuana. If this occurs, let your doctor know as soon as possible. Sometimes tweaking of the dosage or decreasing the ratio of THC to CBD may help.

 

 

  • GLAUCOMA– Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness for those over 60 years old. Medical marijuana can relieve pressure for hours at a time.  Unfortunately, any glaucoma medication has to be effective 24/7 for the prevention of damage to the eyes.  According to Oregon Eye Doctors, this is why the eye drops might be more effective. [4] More discussion and studies need to be done, regarding how to cause medical marijuana to have a longer term effect with this application.

 

  • INSOMNIA- Sleeping medications tend to work in an opposite manner among seniors. Night time medical staff know NOT to give the elderly most sleeping medications. Of recent note, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated that drug companies put a “black box” warning on certain prescription sleeping pills. A black box warning is the most serious warning for drugs, as prescribed drugs have caused deaths. Medical marijuana turns out to be a good safe alternative to those sleeping pills.     
  • ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE- About 10% of seniors have this disease.  Medical marijuana can help with both depression and loss of appetite that might occur. [4] The cannabinoid, THC can also help with the elderly person’s memory. THC helps the brain (hippocampus) to grow additional connections (synaptic spines), to improve brain activity. [5][6] It activates genes that support nerve cells (neurons) and deactivated genes that express cell death. Cannabinoids decrease the inflammatory burden, while giving antioxidant effects. [7]

 

A 2013 study of 7500 patients revealed that more than 90% of medical marijuana patients said that medical marijuana helped treat their conditions. [4] There are a number of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. You can contact our Florida Medical Marijuana Doctors at DocMJ to check for eligibility.  

Seniors want safer options than their prescription drugs. They also want alternatives to drugs that are being misused.

Seniors want safer options than prescription drugs.  They want to be more in control.  For example, people that have pain issues can often utilize medical marijuana to get pain relief, while still being able to safely care for their children, and work at their jobs.     

Neurologist David Casarett M.D.  States that patients who have chronic diseases feel that they have lost “control.”  Sometimes their functioning is decreased. Other times, even their cognition is impaired, either by the disease process or by the petrochemical drugs they are taking. They feel their body has betrayed them, in that others may have to assist them.  This is terrifying, and they want their control back.  They like the fact that with medical marijuana, they can control when they take it as well as the form that they take.  If one dosage is not effective for them, they can change it without permission. They also like that medical marijuana is often working in ways that other pharmaceuticals are not. Part of the increased control given with medical marijuana, is its very low addictive potential.  It has less addiction than caffeine in coffee.     

 

A great benefit is that medical marijuana cannot be overdosed.  Its side effects are usually dose dependent and are comparatively mild. On the other hand, prescription drugs have 2.2 million serious adverse effects.  Severe organ damage and death are among them. Chronic use of prescription drugs often leads to new chronic diseases. It is disease maintenance, at its best.      

Seniors want more cost-effective options.

The average cost that a senior pays yearly for prescription drugs is $3,000.  Medical marijuana averages about $650 a year. [4] However, drugs are just the beginning of the costs that the senior may have to pay for healthcare. Costs can exceed $65K+ a year.   

A number of seniors have seen the financial loss that occurred with their parents.  These parents saved throughout their lifetime to gain a nest egg for their retirement.  However, the cost of treatments for these parents to maintain chronic diseases consumed their savings quickly. It took only one parent to use up their entire lifetime savings.  This often occurred, even if they had good insurance.

Baby boomers do not want this to happen to them.  They are looking for alternatives that will keep them healthier and will cost them much less.  They are looking for having more control over their treatments, as well as its cost.  Medical marijuana is one such alternative, that will have multiple benefits for the consumer. [4]   

It is evident that medical marijuana use is on the rise among the aging population.  It may be an effective substitute for misused medications, as well as an alternative for the undertreatment of pain at the end of life.  Other chronic conditions are being treated with medical marijuana. Now that medical marijuana is legal in so many states, more research will be done to prove its efficacy with more issues.  As more research is done, the usage will increase even more. (3) No matter which medical marijuana qualifying condition you have, our Florida Medical Marijuana Doctors at DocMJ  can help you with all of your medical marijuana needs.

References:

  1.   Lloyd MPH, Shawnta and Striley PhD, Catherine. Marijuana Use Among Adults 50 years or Older in the 21st Century. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. Volume 4:1-14.
  2.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/280777451
  3.   https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/09/12/646423762/more-older-americans-are-turning-to-marijuana
  4.   https://www.aging.com/the-complete-guide-to-medical-marijuana-for-seniors
  5.   https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/research/cachexia
  6.   https://www.marijuanadoctors.com/blog/marijuana-for-improved-memory-in-seniors
  7.   Blaylock MD, Russell. Excitotoxins The Taste that Kills. Health Press. 1994:33-57.