Boomers Fuel Boom in Popularity of CBD

The compound from marijuana plants shows promise for age-related health problems.  

Nancy Giacobbe has been a medical marijuana cardholder since the legalization of medicinal use of the plant in California in 2008. But in 2014, her husband Chris had trouble sleeping due to painful spasms and tremors caused by treatments for a rare form of cancer. While Giacobbe, 61, had used the plant for its psychoactive properties (i.e., the high produced by tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC) she soon saw the medicinal benefits of the plant's other, lesser-known compound — cannabidiol, or CBD — when Chris began to use it for his pain. 

CBD, which comes in a wide variety of forms including salves, edibles and oils, does not produce the high typically associated with marijuana. But CBD seems to help people deal with pain, inflammation and even seizures, although even medical researchers and professionals aren't sure why it works, how it works or even how much to use for what ailments.

Her husband passed away three years ago, but Giacobbe, who lives in Bodega Bay, Calif., now uses topical CBD for her arthritis, which has the potential to severely hinder her work as an aesthetician because she uses her hands every day. She can use the CBD ointment during the day because it causes no side effects and has no smell. At night, she says, "I put the salve on my hands and put on cotton gloves. Within an hour, I'm a happy person and can do a full 35-hour workweek."

Giacobbe is just one of many older adults who now use CBD as a treatment — both with and without a prescription — for mental and physical health issues. As of March 2018, in Colorado, one of nine states in which marijuana is legal for recreational use (the others being Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia), people 50 and older now make up more than 36 percent of patients on the medical marijuana registry.

“We see really great interest amongst seniors,” says Martin Lee, director of the Northern California nonprofit Project CBD, which promotes the use of the compound as a natural alternative to traditional forms of drug therapy.

Mikhail Kogan, M.D., medical director of the George Washington University Center for Integrative Medicine, has prescribed CBD for his patients since the compound was legalized for medical use in the District of Columbia in 2011. Kogan says cannabinoids are "safer than Tylenol or caffeine by tenfold. If you compare them to opiates, they're about 10,000 times safer." He recommends placing a few drops of the oil under the tongue.

All cannabis is illegal on the federal level. But cannabis-based CBD products with THC are widely available in states where it is legal. These products have varying ratios of CBD to THC, and because there are no official medical guidelines on dosage, patients are left to determine for themselves how much to take or how to modify their ratio. "You have to find the point at which you're comfortable, hopefully, and that will include as much THC as works per person," Lee says. "Some people do better at higher doses of CBD. Some people can tolerate higher doses of THC."

For those in states where it is not legal, however, the CBD available is derived from industrial hemp, which is cannabis with a negligible amount of THC. This makes it impossible to modify the ratio as there is no THC present, which means there are fewer products to choose from. And since there is no FDA approval of these products, it can be hard to trust that what you're buying actually is what's advertised.

CBD’s cost is not uniform either. Depending on the dosage, strain and dispensary, it can cost from $100 to $1,000 a month. In California, for example, there is a 15 percent excise tax, plus an additional cultivation tax, which means a $50 bottle of CBD oil can cost about $65. You also have to pay for it out of pocket; private health insurance and Medicare don't cover CBD due to the federal illegality of cannabis.

Even as CBD's popularity has grown, the medical community is still not sure how it works scientifically. "It clearly has some anti-inflammatory effects, but the exact mechanism is still not known," says Pal Pacher, a pharmacologist and cardiologist at the National Institutes of Health, who has conducted studies on the compound. 

Clinical trials both in the U.S. and around the world have shown that CBD works. The compound has been proven to dramatically reduce seizures in children with rare forms of epilepsy, and in 2017, GW Pharmaceuticals submitted Epidiolex, a pure CBD plant extract, to the FDA for approval as an epilepsy drug. It received a recommendation for approval from an administration advisory panel in April.

While there is growing interest among scientists to study CBD’s causes and effects, researchers are hindered by marijuana's Drug Enforcement Agency Schedule I classification, meaning it is considered in the same drug class as heroin. 

As a physician specializing in integrative medicine, Kogan says that CBD and cannabis are excellent components of his care model because of their documented use throughout history. "Cannabis use goes back in every existing society," he says.

Lee, who uses CBD to help with his own health issues stemming from a stroke in 2006, sees people 50 and older as the critical generation that is turning back the stigma of cannabis-based therapy. "It’s the baby boomers," he says. "We have all sorts of health problems. Cannabis can really speak to a lot of those problems."

10 Things Seniors should know about Medical Marijuana

For decades, marijuana was portrayed in the media merely as an illegal drug used to get people high, and the people who use marijuana as no more than drug addicts and hippies seeking a desperate measure to detach from reality.  As more states begin to legalize the use of medical marijuana, these negative stigmas are being disproven simply as “scare tactics”, and replaced with scientific evidence backing marijuana as an aide towards health and wellness.

Senior citizens grew up during a time when marijuana was illegal in the United States.  Accordingly, the golden generation may perhaps be the most misinformed about marijuana, yet, ironically, might also be the age demographic that benefits the most from this natural plant.  Below are 10 things senior citizens should know about medical marijuana. 

1. Marijuana is SAFER than many commonly prescribed medications

Most seniors take prescription drugs on a daily basis. The “side effects” of marijuana are insignificant in comparison to the side effects of many prescription drugs, and not a single person has ever died from a marijuana overdose. An ongoing 30-year study found that a person weighing 140 pounds would have to consume over 4 pounds of marijuana in one sitting to reach toxic levels, and that still would not be a fatal dosage. The powerful anti-oxidant effects of marijuana can provide relief for many disorders including liver inflammation from Hepatitis C, lupus, irritable bowel syndrome, and many other serious medical conditions that all involve inflammation and oxidative damage.

2. Marijuana is not physically addictive

Many seniors fear that if they start using marijuana they will become addicted. People can use marijuana daily and then stop “cold turkey”.  Discontinuing the use of marijuana has much the same response as quitting the consumption of coffee. Many people who seek welcome and effective respite from chronic pain, anxiety, and stress use marijuana as a daily medicine.

3. Marijuana can reduce and possibly replace many prescription medications

A major complaint of seniors regarding their daily medications is that the first pill often causes side effects that the second one is supposed to “fix.”  "Marijuana's healing properties target various conditions such as inflamed joints, high blood pressure, chronic pain, digestive disorders, constipation, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, cognitive awareness, and more Marijuana has the potential for accentuating the effect of many commonly prescribed drugs (blog.norml.org)." For example, opiate based painkillers are typically enhanced when marijuana is used concurrently, often resulting in a reduction of pharmaceutical medicines.

4. There are many different types, or “strains” of marijuana

Growing this plant is not terribly different from gardeners attempting to create the perfect rose or tomato plant.  Each plant has it’s own personality and effects. There are strains that are very helpful for chronic pain relief and strains Some strains can make one feel very focused and energized, while others can be relaxing and help with a good nights sleep.  The major strains of marijuana are Sativa and Indica.  Learn more about about the difference between Sativa and Indica for seniors

5. There are marijuana strains without “the high”

“If I could get the medical benefit from the plant without the high, I’d consider it.” said many of the seniors we’ve spoken to.  Harvest cultivators have developed and are currently producing potent CBD genetic strains that have minimal psychoactive effect.  CBD, or cannabidiol, is tremendous for inflammation, eases pain, stimulates bone growth, suppresses muscular spasms, reduces anxiety, and increases mental focus. Harvest currently carries liquid extracts that have no “high” at all. These have proven extremely successful for persons suffering from arthritis pain, nausea, and muscle spasms.

6. There are ways to use marijuana other than smoking it

One common misconception among aging adults is that they have to smoke marijuana to gain the medicinal benefits. Harvest of Tempe provides liquid extracts, infused honey,candies, baked goods, and other products to choose from. Marijuana can be added to just about any regular recipe in the form of marijuana infused butters or oils. This opens up so many options for your medicine.

7. Marijuana-infused ointments can be very effective in alleviating arthritis and neuropathy pain

Locally made, medicated creams are very popular for sore joints and muscles and back pain. They are very effective, smell nice and give a you no “high” so you can feel comfortable using the products throughout the day.

8. Marijuana does not lower your IQ or cause brain damage

Another common misconception aging adults have with marijuana is that can lower intelligence or cause brain damage . There is no documentation that shows that marijuana reduces or “kills brain cells.” Studies with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients indicate that marijuana gradually encourages new neural pathways, allowing those with impaired brain function to potentially halt further degeneration and even encourage brain function.

9. Marijuana can help increase your appetite

One of the most dangerous health risks among senior citizens is the loss of appetite, leading to weight loss. Marijuana has been extremely successful in alleviating nausea and as an appetite stimulant. That being said, A new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds an intriguing connection between marijuana use and body weight, showing that rates of obesity are lower by roughly a third in people who smoke marijuana at least three times a week, compared with those who don’t use marijuana at all.

10. The stigma around medical marijuana use is fading

Seniors are the fastest growing population of new medical marijuana users. There is no other reason for this other than it is working work for them. If you are in discomfort or chronic pain and would like other options. Those options consist of an organically and locally grown herb that is 3rd party tested, legal in the state of Arizona and can be purchased from a conscientious and responsible business that will provide you with friendly service and education. Medical marijuana can be a valuable tool in your “wellness toolbox”. The Harvest of Tempe is here to help.

The Complete Guide to Medical Marijuana for Seniors

Marijuana has had a turbulent history in the United States. Starting in the mid-1990s, however, there was a push to introduce the medical benefits of cannabis to the American people once again—”once again,” because before the 20th century, marijuana was almost entirely legal.

Beginning in the 1910s, states began to ban the sale of marijuana, eventually leading to a bill called the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, which decreased the amount of hemp (a version of a cannabis plant) allowed to be produced in the U.S. Later on in the century, the stigma around marijuana grew and Richard Nixon signed into law the Controlled Substances Act, which included marijuana on a list of federally banned drugs alongside heroin, cocaine, and other narcotics.

By the time the 1990s came along, though, states began adopting the medical benefits of marijuana, starting with California. About 15 years after that, marijuana itself—not just the medicinal qualities—became legal for recreational use in Washington and Colorado. As of 2017, 29 of 50 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana. A 2013 study revealed that four of five doctors approve of medical marijuana and that more than 90 percent of medical marijuana patients (of around 7,500 surveyed) say that medical marijuana has helped treat their conditions. Seniors were the largest age group in the study (more than 2,300 respondents).

With medical marijuana gaining prevalence and popularity in the medical world all over the U.S., let’s look at exactly what it is.

What Is Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana is not the drug you can buy in the street, which may be improperly grown, infused with another drug, or not even authentic marijuana.

Medical marijuana stems from pure, uncut cannabis indica plant. Certain medically beneficial chemicals—the “mind-altering” ones that make you feel a buzz or high—are then taken from these planets and used to help treat patients for various medical issues. Sometimes the plants as a whole—and not just the certain chemicals inside it—are used to help with certain medical conditions.

While there are more than 100 chemicals (these are called cannabinoids) in marijuana, the two main chemicals in medical marijuana used for medical purposes are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These chemicals can help treat a slew of diseases and medical conditions, which we’ll discuss later.

How Can Medical Marijuana Help?

Medical marijuana has not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration yet, mainly because there have not been enough clinical trials done on a wide enough scale to prove the plant’s medical benefits. Just because a large government agency hasn’t approved medical marijuana as a proper medical treatment does not mean that the plant itself doesn’t have medical benefits, especially for seniors. Cannabis has actually been used as a medical treatment for thousands of years

Now that we know what medical marijuana is, we can look at the symptoms and illnesses the chemicals inside of the marijuana plants can help qualm or make easier to live with.

Cancer

One of the primary uses of medical marijuana is to help cancer patients, especially when they are going through rounds of chemotherapy. Some studies have shown that smoking marijuana can help with nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. When dealing with palliative care, especially for patients with cancer, a study points out that most patients (more than 60 percent) experience both of these symptoms rather than one or the other, so medical marijuana can help relieve two symptoms (and potentially many more) at once. Studies have also shown smoked or vaporized marijuana can help with the pain suffered through neurological damage and can help patients get their eating habits back on schedule.

In terms of cancer treatment, there have only been two THC-infused oral pills that have been approved by the FDA for federal use: Marinol and Cesamet. These have been prescribed to help cancer patients with nausea.

Studies are ongoing in both animals and humans to see how medical marijuana can help treat tumors as well as the symptoms and illness that come with cancer.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease have sometimes turned to medical marijuana to help with their treatment to assist with symptoms of depression and loss of appetite that may come along with the degenerative brain disease, which affects more than four million Americans’ cognition and memory every year. About 10 percent of seniors have the disease.

In 2014, there was a preclinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Diseasethat analyzed the “potential therapeutic effects of THC” on the disease.” Researchers introduced THC to beta-amyloids, which are clumps of proteins that build up on the brain and are one of the leading signs of the presence of Alzheimer’s. They found that THC helped slow the advancement of these beta-amyloids, and the results from the study “strongly suggest that THC could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.”

General Pain

Almost all seniors have experienced some sort of pain in their later years, and medical marijuana can help with that. What’s interesting is that you often don’t need to ingest the marijuana to reap the medical benefits of the plant. There are rubs, creams, and lotions infused with THC that can seep through your skin and attack a small, singular area of pain.

“There is increasing evidence that cannabis is helpful in the management of certain kinds of pain,” said Dr. Igor Grant, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.

Medical marijuana, whether it’s smoked, consumed, or applied through a topical treatment, can help relieve acute and chronic pain by attacking the already-present cannabinoid receptors in our body. It helps relieve pain from:

  • Joint pain, like arthritis

  • Nerve damage

  • Chronic illness, like cancer

Despite taking up less than 15 percent of the population, seniors are prescribed more than one-third of all prescription drugs in America, and the drugs are often used to treat pain. Medical marijuana is a convenient and healthier alternative, and strays away from the addictive tendencies of opioids.

Anxiety/Mental Health Disorders

Studies have shown that cannabinol (CBD), one of the two main chemicals in marijuana used for medical purposes, can help treat anxiety and other mental health issues, including:

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Panic attacks

  • Moderate depression

  • General anxiety

Essentially, these studies (conducted in animals, to this point) found that CBD helps stimulate serotonin receptors in the brain, which is the main goal of other anti-anxiety medications like Zoloft. Medical marijuana has been proven to be far less addictive and to actually help counteract addictions to other prescription drugs.

While using medical marijuana to treat anxiety may help for some, others have reported anxiety as a side effects of using it. As Harvard’s health department points out, about 20 to 30 percent of recreational users say smoking marijuana causes anxiety or panic attacks after smoking. It’s important to stay in touch with your doctor once trying medical marijuana as a treatment in case it has adverse effects as planned.

Included in mental health is addiction. Analysis on studies by the National Institute for Drug Abuse show that the presence of legal marijuana laws and marijuana dispensaries show a link between:

  • Fewer deaths caused by prescription opioids

  • Less treatment for opioid addiction

  • General prescribing of opioids

  • A reduced number of people self-reporting opioid misuse

Many of these links have been chalked up to doctors prescribing far less harmful medical marijuana than addictive painkillers and antidepressants.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are far more common among seniors than you think. Nearly 80 percent of deaths that occur due to anorexia occur among the elderly.

As seniors age, they may lose the desire to eat. This can happen because they’re making a personal decision about their body image or because of other psychological reasons beyond their control. Poor eating, amidst other issues like bone loss and heart problems, can prove chronic. But in any instance, medical marijuana may help seniors eat more and exit dangerous weight zones.

Studies have found that the body’s marijuana-like neurological system called the endocannabinoid system is underutilized or impaired amongst patients with anorexia and bulimia, essentially making the brain look at food as undesirable. Medical marijuana can help stimulate this system and help the brain treat food as a reward again.

Eating disorders are often treated with antidepressants and antipsychotics, but patients often report their symptoms worsening after taking them. Additionally, many national psychotic and eating disorder foundations and associations have yet to list medical marijuana as a treatment for eating disorders. However, many doctors view medical marijuana as a safer alternative view medical marijuana as a safer alternative to prescription drugs with far less risky side effects.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an issue with your eyes that occurs when a buildup of fluid damages the nerves in your eyeball. It is the leading cause of blindness for people over the age of 60. This disease causes increasing pressure in your eyes because of the amount of fluid, which affects your eyesight. For years, doctors have prescribed glaucoma eye drops that help relieve the pressure in your eyes, but it has also been proven that marijuana can help relieve pressure for hours at a time.

According to a website dedicated to Oregon eye doctors (where medical marijuana is legal), you need to relieve pressure in your eyes throughout the entire day to help combat glaucoma, which is why eye drops can sometimes be more effective. Other factors that play into using medical marijuana instead of glaucoma drops include cost effectiveness and personal preference.

How Can Medical Marijuana Boost The Brain?

We have looked at all the benefits medical marijuana can have when it comes to treating diseases, conditions, and mental illnesses, but it can also positively affect the brain functions in the elderly.

A study done at the University of Bonn in Germany looked at the how small doses of THC affected the brain cognition in mice that were young, mature, and elderly. As it often does in younger humans, THC inhibited the cognition in young mice slightly. But with the introduction of THC, the two older groups of mice performed better on cognitive tests than younger mice who were also introduced to THC. Before the introduction of THC, the older generations of mice performed significantly worse on the tests.

While this study is obviously not generalized for humans just yet, it is an intriguing building block when it comes to looking at medical marijuana helping increase the cognition in the elderly—something that often declines severely as people age. The next step is seeing how our internal cannabinoid system reacts to THC and how that introduction can help re-stimulate cognition, the study’s leading researcher, Andreas Zimmer, said.

“The idea is that as animals grow old, similar to in humans, the activity of the endogenous cannabinoid system goes down—and that coincides with signs of aging in the brain,” Zimmer said. “So we thought, ‘What if we stimulate the system by supplying [externally produced] cannabinoids?’”

Because cannabis is not considered a class A or dangerous drug in Germany, researchers are able to gain funding from the government to test the effect of THC on cognition in humans, which Zimmer plans on starting soon.

Why Seniors Are Turning To Medical Marijuana

The trend among seniors using medical marijuana is on the up-and-up. From 2006 to 2013, cannabis use among seniors increased by 250 percent.

We’ve discussed the many reasons why medical marijuana can be beneficial to seniors because of their health. But let’s take a look at a several more reasons why seniors are turning toward medical marijuana:

  • It’s safer and more cost efficient: As we’ve discussed in previous sections, medical marijuana is often a safer alternative to many prescription drugs like opioids and antipsychotics, and has with far fewer severe side effects. It can also be more cost efficient, too. A senior spends on average close to $3,000 per year on prescription drugs alone. Contrast that with the national average of how much a person spends on medical marijuana per year—about $650—and you have a more cost-effective option, too.

  • Why not try it?: Some seniors have pain so severe that over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications can’t always cure their maladies. So sometimes they turn to medical marijuana out of desperation and find positive results. A woman named Reba Goodman reached this point of pain that was so severe, she stopped resisting marijuana. “It was just heaven,” she said of her pain relief, noting that she stopped using marijuana once the pain went away for good but that she could easily pick it up again if need be.

  • Helps with sleep: Some seniors have found medical marijuana to be a viable alternative for sleeping pills, which sometimes don’t work at all. Kerry Stiles, a 78-year-old nursing home resident who wears a pacemaker, says he places droplets of cannabis under tongue before he goes to bed, and he says it helps him sleep. The same goes for 95-year-old Alice, who experienced insomnia before turning to medical marijuana.

How Do You Consume Medical Marijuana?

There is not one specific way to intake the benefits of medical marijuana. Depending on your medical needs, budget, and your physical abilities, you may prefer one method over another. Let’s take a look at some ways you can consume medical marijuana.

  • Smoke it: Smoking marijuana provides some of the most instant relief when it comes to extracting the medical benefits from the plant. There are several ways to smoke marijuana, including through a smaller handheld pipe or device, a water bong (a pipe with a long neck), or a joint (where you use rolling papers). Smoking is typically the cheapest option, too, considering you only need to acquire a single smoking device or inexpensive rolling papers.

  • Consume it: Medical marijuana can be infused into foods and drinks to help ease the process of consumption. Essentially, the THC just needs to be extracted from the marijuana, then mixed in with whatever food or drink you want (commonly brownies, smoothies, cookies, etc.). Consuming marijuana usually takes longer to take effect, and even a small increase in dosage can have massive effects on how you feel once they kick in, so be careful with self-dosing. The edible and drinks business is becoming an increasingly popular option. Forbes reports that more $180 million worth of marijuana-infused foods and drinks were sold in California alone in 2016.

  • Vaporize it: Similar to smoking, vaporizing marijuana into a mist provides more instant results. For this method, you put a small amount of cannabis inside a machine called a “vaporizer,” which turns the heated cannabis into a vapor that isn’t as hot as smoke but still hot enough to extract the medical benefits. The devices used for vaporizing are usually far more expensive than ones for smoking, but the vapor is usually far less harsh on your lungs.

  • Rub it on your skin: Topical treatments like lotions and creams can help relieve maladies like muscle soreness and arthritis. Because they’re applied through the skin, topicals don’t give you the “high” often associated with cannabis. They also allow you to target one specific area of pain rather than inducing a full body effect for one localized area of pain.

  • Use droplets: Using droplets or sprays can help you control the dosage you’re taking. You place the treatment underneath your tongue, letting the saliva and tissues absorb the THC. While not as immediate as smoking or vaporizing, using sprays is more cost effective, especially if you need smaller doses.

  • Taken in pill form: It’s one of the least popular options, but there are suppositories and other cannabinoid medicines that are FDA-approved and help ease symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

Whatever method you choose to intake medical marijuana, it’s important you consult a medical professional about how much, when, and how often to use it.

Where Is Medical Marijuana Legal?

Though marijuana and its medical abilities are still banned and viewed as a Class A drug on a federal level, individual states have been given the right to legalize marijuana, both on a medical and recreational scale. While the Department of Justice announced under President Barack Obama’s administration that they were leaving the crackdown of the growth and sale of marijuana largely up to the states, there have been seizures and arrests made on dispensaries from the federal level.

As of October 2017, 29 out of 50 states have approved medical marijuana beyond the two FDA-approved cannabis drugs, Marinol and Cesamet. These states include (ones in bold also allow it recreationally):

  • Alaska

  • Arizona

  • Arkansas

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • Florida

  • Hawaii

  • Illinois

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan

  • Minnesota

  • Montana

  • Nevada

  • New Hampshire

  • New Jersey

  • New Mexico

  • New York

  • North Dakota

  • Ohio

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

  • Rhode Island

  • Vermont

  • Washington

  • West Virginia

Washington, D.C. has also approved medical marijuana.

States have varying laws for how much you are allowed to possess on your person at one time, how much you are allowed to personally grow, and what conditions are recognized as being helped by medical marijuana. To find out more information on your state’s laws on medical marijuana, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures website.

Medical Marijuana a Hit With Seniors

Seniors are giving rave reviews for medical marijuana.

In a new survey, those who turned to it for treating chronic pain reported it reduced pain and decreased the need for opioid painkillers.

Nine out of 10 liked it so much they said they'd recommend medical pot to others.

"I was on Percocet and replaced it with medical marijuana. Thank you, thank you, thank you," said one senior.

Another patient put it this way: "It [medical marijuana] is extremely effective and has allowed me to function in my work and life again. It has not completely taken away the pain, but allows me to manage it."

Study co-author Dr. Diana Martins-Welch said, "The impact of medical marijuana was overwhelmingly positive. Medical marijuana led them to taking less medications overall -- opioids and non-opioids -- and they had better function and better quality of life." Martins-Welch is a physician in the division of geriatric and palliative medicine at Northwell Health, in Great Neck, N.Y.

The biggest complaint the researchers heard about medical marijuana was the cost. "It's an out-of-pocket expense. Insurance doesn't cover it because it's federally illegal," Martins-Welch explained.

As for unwelcome side effects, Martins-Welch said sedation was what she heard about the most. "A lot of people don't like feeling sleepy," she said.

It's also important to work with your doctor to find the right dose, since pain experts say that too little or too much doesn't ease pain.

Thirty-one states have some type of medical marijuana law on the books, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

"Every state has its own laws, like what a qualifying condition is. There are a lot of differences. And you can't take a product from one state and cross another state line," Martins-Welch said.

According to federal law, medical marijuana is still illegal in the United States. "There are legal fears. Some practitioners worry that the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration] might come after them," she added.

Medical marijuana is different than just picking up some pot and smoking it.

"The goal with medical marijuana is to find the dose that gives a therapeutic benefit without a high, or slowing reaction time or causing sedation," Martins-Welch said. "To find that right dose, we start low and go slow."

In fact, it's important to work with a doctor because there's a "therapeutic window" with THC, the active component in marijuana that causes the high, according to Dr. Mark Wallace, a board member of the American Pain Society.

If you get a dose that's within that window, the pain is relieved. If you get too little, you won't get pain relief, and if you go over the therapeutic window, pain is actually worsened, Wallace explained.

The study included a 20-question survey of nearly 150 seniors who had used medical marijuana for chronic pain. The seniors had received their medical marijuana from dispensaries in New York or Minnesota.

The average age of the seniors was 61 to 70, and 54 percent were female. Many (45 percent) used a vaporized oil in an e-cigarette device. Twenty-eight percent used a medical marijuana pill.

Twenty-one percent said they used medical marijuana daily, while 23 percent said they used it twice a day. Another 39 percent said they used it more than twice a day, the researchers noted.

About half the time, medical marijuana had been recommended by a doctor. One-quarter of the seniors decided to try medical marijuana at the urging of a friend or family member. Almost all -- 91 percent -- would recommend medical marijuana to someone else.

When asked how medical marijuana affected their pain levels, the seniors reported going from a 9 (on a pain scale of zero to 10) down to 5.6 a month after starting the medical marijuana.

Wallace said he's seen many positive results from the use of medical marijuana in his patients.

"The geriatric population is my fastest-growing patient population. With medical marijuana, I'm taking more patients off opioids," he said.

"There's never been a reported death from medical marijuana, yet there are 19,000 deaths a year from prescription opioids. Medical cannabis is probably safer than a lot of drugs we give," Wallace said.

Medical marijuana can also stimulate appetite, Martins-Welch said, which is a "godsend for cancer patients," though extra eating may not be a welcome side effect for everyone.

Martins-Welch said it's best to discuss potential drug interactions with your doctor, but it's usually OK to mix marijuana and opioids. She said she'd caution against mixing medical marijuana with alcohol.

The study findings were presented recently at the American Geriatrics Society meeting in Orlando, Fla. Studies presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Serena Gordon HealthDay Reporter THURSDAY, July 5, 2018 (HealthDay News) 

Cannabis: an Important Tool for Transitions in Elderly Life

Selling a home, losing a spouse, transitioning into a retirement community, and facing losing friends and relatives, and health challenges are just some of the large transitions that a senior citizen will have to face in their lives.

Despite being called the “golden years”, sometimes with the overwhelming emotions of transitions and change, a senior citizen can develop anxiety and depression. These years which are meant to be enjoyed, are anything but enjoyable.

Cannabis, particularly cannabidiol (CBD) is a powerful alternative to drug therapies that aim to reduce anxiety and depression in senior citizens in highly transitionary times, while helping to improve cognition and memory, stimulate creativity, and address major physical challenges.

Cannabis and Anxiety

There is a strong dialogue around cannabis and anxiety and the brain’s power to use cannabinoids to increase the effectiveness of the serotonin receptors that regulate mood.

Changing homes to move into a new retirement residence, or adapting to life after losing a spouse, or facing health concerns can put a lot of strain on an elderly person.

CBD has proven to be a powerful tool within the mental health and cannabis communities. Cannabinoids are inherent parts of our bodies, and sometimes a deficiency of cannabinoids can lead to effects in mood, manifesting in anxiety and depression. When CBD is introduced into the body, the CB1 and CB2 receptors distribute the CBD to the organs, including the brain. While ingesting CBD without THC doesn’t lead to a psychoactive state, patients using CBD report an elevated mood due to the increase of the effectiveness of serotonin receptors.

Elderly people going through major transitions can benefit from the non-psychoactive, yet elevating effects of CBD rather than relying on powerful prescriptions, that also try to replicate increasing effectiveness of serotonin in the brain.

Improving Memory

Scientists are interested in the ways that CBD can improve and even repair the function of the brain’s hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory and cognition.

Loss of long- and short-term memory is something that elderly people struggle with, and in times of transition, memory recall becomes important. With the administrative changes to living situations, or losing a spouse, or having to go through medical tests, it is important that the elderly patient is an advocate for themselves and is able to rely on their memory and cognition.

When the hippocampus is repaired, cognitive function is improved, and memory recall becomes stronger. As life changes and people pass on, memory becomes a valuable tool for eternal warmth, and CBD can offer the senior citizen the opportunity to improve their memory and cognition.

Cannabis and Creativity

There is no better outlet for the emotions of life transitions than creativity. As author Brene Brown states, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation, and change.”

Through major transitions, the senior may find value in painting, drawing, sculpture, theatre, music, writing, or any form of art that piques their creativity. One study showed that cannabis use can bring about “divergent thinking”, meaning that it can create an array of responses to a question, stimuli or ponderance, rather than just one response.

Robert Weiner in Creativity and Beyond said that “a cannabis-induced state of mind may lead to breaking free from everyday thinking and associations,” highlighting the psychological reasons people may turn to cannabis for creativity.

Cannabis and Physical Health

Medical cannabis is most importantly being recognized for its medical applications to relieve serious symptoms. A most common medical condition among the elderly is arthritis, with an estimated 54.4 people in the USA receiving a diagnosis. With arthritis affecting people as more commonly as they age, it can be disruptive, both physically and emotionally and especially when going through tough life transitions.

Common treatments are NSAIDs, which are tough on the gastrointestinal system and don’t address the underlying issue. Using cannabidiol can help reduce inflammation in the joints, reducing the pain associated with the inflammation of arthritis.

Cannabis has become crucial in the fight against the opioid crisis, with a need to find alternatives to the damaging effects of powerful prescriptions. Cannabis is proving itself to be a powerful antidote to painas more Americans find solace in a medical cannabis prescription.

Obtain a Medical Cannabis Prescription to Ease Life’s Transitions

MyCannX is your guide to navigating medical cannabis. We understand that people are struggling through some of life’s biggest transitions, and we have thoroughly embraced the role that cannabis, and specifically CBD, has to play in making life a little more pleasant to live. Everyone deserves support, and MyCannX and the qualified cannabis doctors within our network are there to help through helping people get their medical cannabis card.

References

https://www.mycannx.com/anxiety

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22230356

https://herb.co/marijuana/news/does-marijuana-actually-make-you-more-creative

https://www.mycannx.com/new-blog/2018/1/24/5-things-that-may-surprise-you-regarding-cannabis-use-among-the-elderly

https://www.mycannx.com/alternative-pain-relief-maryland