Cannabis isn’t just for the young. A survey spanning six years showed that its use increased 57.8% in the 50-64-year-old crowd, and by a whopping 250% for those 65 and older.
A study done in New York with seniors participating in the state’s Medical Marijuana Program showed that 69% of the participants got relief from their medical issues.
And a study done by the University of Colorado School of Medicine between June and November of 2017 showed that cannabis use by older Coloradans is growing faster than any other age group.
What’s going on here?
Things like pain, depression, anxiety, and the desire to stop using opioids, to name a few.
The Colorado study also showed that despite Colorado having been one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use, there is nevertheless a stigma still attached to its use — even, it would seem, for medical purposes. While the rates of seniors using cannabis increases, according to the seniors in this study, there were many barriers in the process of obtaining medical cannabis.
These barriers included things like a lack of education about cannabis, no information regarding the possible outcomes of its use, little to no provider communication, and a reluctance to discuss the use of cannabis. The latter caused some seniors to purchase recreational marijuana to avoid the cannabis conversation with their providers. But the patients weren’t the only ones affected by this reluctance: one participant said that after mentioning the use of cannabis cream for shoulder pain, the conversation ended. The doctor didn’t want to know why, anything about the efficacy, or anything about side effects.
And what may also seem strange in a state like Colorado, is that many of these patients experienced a lack of access to medical cannabis, due to their physicians being either unwilling or unable to obtain the necessary certification to participate in the state’s Medical Marijuana program. It’s tricky because medical cannabis recommendations are only allowed for certain qualifying conditions.
Thankfully, this will soon be changing, as a new state law goes into effect on August 2. This new law will allow Colorado doctors to prescribe medical cannabis for the same reasons that they would prescribe painkillers or opioids.
These and other studies that were done with seniors are significant because 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition; conditions that may well be helped by medical cannabis. One of these conditions is anorexia. Just as cannabis use isn’t only for the young, the condition of anorexia isn’t relegated only to teen girls and young women. According to Eating Disorder Hope, and aging.com, 78% of deaths caused by anorexia occur in the elderly.
And the ravages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, both of which so often torment the elderly, have been shown to be alleviated by medical cannabis, without the serious side effects of the drugs often given for these conditions.
As the population continues to age, accompanied by the many age-related health issues, more research, more openness, and less stigma regarding the use of medical cannabis are needed now more than ever.