How Cannabis Can Help The Elderly | Growers Choice Seeds

How Cannabis Can Help The Elderly

Some seniors report that cannabis products help relieve certain symptoms and provide therapeutic benefits. Other older adults indulge in weed purely for recreational reasons and the herb’s enjoyable psychoactive effects.

How Cannabis Can Help Seniors

If you ask someone to describe the stereotypical cannabis user, chances are they’ll describe a teenager, or maybe a young adult. They might mention a “hippie”, who matched the same age range back in their hayday. It’s much less common to describe someone in the later years of their lives, which is funny when we consider that those folks are the very people who were once the iconic hippies.

Society often forgets that older adult and seniors can change along with the times and that many of them were part of the generation that first started the wheels of cannabis progress turning.

All of this is to say that the notion that older adults aren’t active members of the recreational and medical cannabis community is pretty naive and ageist. The fact is, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (source 1) in 2019 showed that marijuana usage has jumped by 75% amongst people 65 and older—from 2.4% to 4.2% between 2015 to 2018. In 2019, a solid 5% of this demographic reported using cannabis.

In addition, while using marijuana for its potential therapeutic benefits is a prevalent reason many older adults use cannabis products, recreational use is far from unheard of.

Older Adults Have Shifted Their Views On Marijuana

While research shows that adults ages 60 and upwards are increasingly getting their medical marijuana cards and using cannabis to alleviate common health issues, that doesn’t mean our elders don’t indulge in weed for its purely recreational effects. I mean, think about it, your favorite 72-year-old aunt, who has always just been “eternally youthful and cool” was 18 when she went to Woodstock in 1969 and traveled the country in a van long before that lifestyle was reduced to a hashtag, and probably could’ve out-toked you back in the day. Is it really a surprise that she isn’t above dropping a THC gummy?

Why Their Views Have Shifted

Research (source 2) has shown that for older adults who only started to use marijuana in their later years, one of the key factors of this shift was legalization. This is because the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis has significantly de-stigmatized its use as well as the negative, generally unfounded, and often racist and classist stereotypes around the kind of people who use weed. In addition, while there are many watching acceptance grow on social media, both in the mainstream media and on the accounts of their acquaintances, has helped to shift Baby Boomer attitudes and beliefs long-held and fed by the misinformation and fear-mongering spread during the “War on Drugs”, which President Nixon launched when this generation was young.

That said, this same research indicates that recreational cannabis usage does still carry a stigma with it amongst seniors—especially those who were born at the very tail end of the Silent Generation, between 1925 and 1945. Change is happening, but, like so much social progress, it’s slow.

MMJ Cards and Why Not?

Not too surprisingly, elders who started out using weed to address medical conditions may end up using it for recreational purposes, as if having a medical marijuana card somehow gave them permission to do or try something they’ve always wanted but were afraid to try due to the social stigmas associated with it.

And then there are many others who approach weed with the same attitude as one 85-year-old man who said: “At this point in my life, I don’t think it would do any harm. I’m not going to get addicted, and if I do, so what? Every day is a gift in my world.”

The Medical Benefits Of Marijuana For Seniors

According to Christopher Kaufmann, Ph.D. (source 3), who is an assistant professor in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego: “Pain, insomnia and anxiety were the most common reasons for cannabis use and, for the most part, patients reported that cannabis was helping to address these issues, especially with insomnia and pain.” His findings come from a study he co-authored, which was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (source 4) in October 2020. Kaufmann and his colleagues found that out of 568 patients, 15% had used cannabis within the past three years with half saying they used it consistently and mainly for medicinal applications.

Accessibility Benefits For Senior Medical Users

On the fiscal side of things, common cannabis products found at cannabis retail shops are generally much cheaper than costly pharmaceutical drugs, which can be especially beneficial to retired older adults who can’t afford overpriced health insurance plans. This said, it is important to note that the therapeutic effects associated with any given strain or product are never guaranteed, and it is always best to consult a trained medical professional before exploring cannabis as a potential option for symptom relief.

Unlike over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs, cannabis plants can be grown at home by both patients and caregivers in places where cultivation for medical and/or recreational purposes is legal. This means that seniors who have limited access to transportation, for instance, can gain access to cannabis buds without leaving their homes.

Men playing chess at a park
Seniors can benefit from cannabis as it may help with stress or discomfort
Source: Vlad Sargu Unsplash

Marijuana As An Upper: Potential Benefits

Enhancing Delight

A big benefit for elders who use marijuana is its ability to enhance the senses, which can result in an increase in pleasure and appreciation for one’s immediate surroundings, music, food, and the planet as a whole.

Horticultural Therapy For Seniors

It’s also known that horticultural therapy provides many mental and physical health benefits, so older adults who are tending to their own cannabis crops at home can more actively engage in the world around them, experiencing the pleasure that comes with gardening and the physical benefits that come from being active outside.

Laughter: The Best Medicine

Many indica and sativa hybrids have a reputation for inducing a sense of immense bliss, elation, and happiness, not to mention a serious case of the giggles. All of these cannabis benefits may be particularly useful to older adults who, unfortunately, tend to be at a greater risk for social isolation. By reaping the joy- and laughter-filled effects associated with many cannabis strains, older folks can not only experience mood boosts but may also find themselves feeling more motivated to do the things they love and to be more socially engaged with members of their community, family, or in their neighborhood.

Plus, it’s been researched and proven that laughter has real physical health benefits (source 5) and positive long-term effects—some of which are provided below:

  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Improves cardiovascular conditions
  • Reduces artery inflammation and helps prevent plaque from forming on artery walls
  • Increases good cholesterol (HDL) levels
  • Helps to diminish pain and muscular tension.
Senior lady holding a camera
No matter your age, everyone can benefit from cannabis in their lives
Source: Tiago Muraro Unsplash

Conclusion: The Potential Adverse Effects Of Cannabis On Seniors

When used responsibly, cannabis should not pose risks to most people. However, older adults, in particular, may be more commonly affected by the following possible risks. Be sure to take care when using any substance, and to always speak with a doctor first to ensure that it will not interact poorly with existing medications.

  • Drowsiness or dizziness could increase the risk of a fall
  • Combination with blood thinners or anti-seizure medications can have adverse effects
  • Using cannabis before surgery can impact pain management plans

External References

  1. JAMA Internal Medicine. (2020). Trends in Cannabis Use Among Older Adults in the United States, 2015-2018. Retrieved from JAMA Network website.
  2. International Journal of Drug Policy. (2022). Older adults experiences of using recreational cannabis for medicinal purposes following legalization. Retrieved from Science Direct website.
  3. UC San Diego Health. (2020). Study Finds Older Adults Using Cannabis to Treat Common Health Conditions. Retrieved from UC San Diego Health website.
  4. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. (2020). Cannabis: An Emerging Treatment for Common Symptoms in Older Adults. Retrieved from AGS Geriatrics Healthcare Professionals website.
  5. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. (2016). The Laughter Prescription. Retrieved from PMC PubMed Central website.

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