By 2020, 33 states have legalized at least one form of cannabis. its use extends to all age groups of adults. Several studies have shown that seniors are surprisingly taken up across the country and increasing every year. Up to 1 in 20 seniors in America research marijuana products. Let's see how they use them and why.
Why is marijuana use increasing?
Cannabis, the plant used to refine marijuana, can help alleviate the symptoms of some conditions such as chronic pain and insomnia. Public and medical community acceptance has increased in recent years. Even AARP, one of the most trusted resources for seniors, is now endorsing medical use in states where it is legal.
The medical professionals consulted by AARP were optimistic. Peter Grinspoon, MD, professor at Harvard Medical School, stated, “It makes sense to try cannabis given the track record of other drugs that many older adults are taking, particularly for pain, sleep, and anxiety. Cannabis can be as effective as anything else. "Daniel Reingold, CEO of RiverSpring Health of Riverdale, NY, praised the completion of a pilot program at this Hebrew Home facility:" The benefits are nothing short of amazing and should be more widely available to residents of long-term care facilities. ""
How do seniors get the marijuana?
To get the question right, we went to the source: marijuana dispensaries. Legalization happens from state to state, with a patchwork of laws regulating purchase and use.
In Oklahoma, cannabis was legalized for medical purposes in 2018. Corbin Wyatt, CEO of Likewise Cannabis in Oklahoma City, told us that patients aged 50 and over make up a little less than 15% of his customers and often work closely with his staff to find the right product:
“We tend to work with seniors more often than other age groups when it comes to knowledge of cannabis products. We found that seniors are generally less likely to do internet-based research on cannabis and generally prefer to talk to team members in the business to gain knowledge. Patients under the senior brand are generally more comfortable and experienced with internet research and already have a general idea of what products and ingestion methods to try. "
The situation is slightly different in California, where Eric Luchini, Marketing and Communications Director at KOLAS Dispensaries, estimated that 35 to 50% of their customers are seniors. The number has been growing every year since legalization in 2018. He believes this increase can be attributed to three main sources: "Education and continued social acceptance are two major drivers of this increase, along with increasing drug side effects."
At KOLAS “older customers are naturally more curious and less informed on the street. They are more concerned about what they are putting into their bodies. They're asking more questions, doing their own research, and spending more time in the store trying to get the right information, ”he said. “Most doctors offer limited information – more like a suggestion to try cannabis. Some I know recommend CBD but no other products beyond that. "
What are you using?
Marijuana comes in many forms. While the popular image of smoke joints and pipe leaves may be, the market has expanded to include groceries, ointments, beverages, and more.
Likewise, “older consumers generally seem to prefer either the“ old ”cannabis products like flowers and groceries or the tincture / topical / capsule line of cannabis-infused products that are closer to what they are used to using on a regular basis . "
In Mr. Luchini's market, even among older users, “Flower is still the main product of choice, but there is a marked increase in non-smokable products (especially with the advent of COVID): vapes, food and beverages are on a more noticeable basis Rise. "
Is Marijuana Safe?
It gets difficult here. Marijuana’s relatively poor public image and longstanding illegal status have made research scarce. In an interview with AARP, geriatrician Hillary Lum, MD, of the University of Colorado complained, "I'm in an information vacuum. We don't have a lot of clinical studies to prove its effectiveness. Medical schools, pharmacy schools, and nursing schools haven't taught it. It's not in the pharmacy database we use for prescribing, so I don't have a lot of information about possible drug interactions and side effects. "
Pharmacies rely on medical research for medical advice. Mr. Wyatt stated, “Many of the companies we work with, such as Mary & # 39; s Medicinals, have advisory boards with prominent doctors and pharmacists who help provide information about product dosing and safe use to our team members who then pass that information on to us our patients pass on. "
When asked about drug interactions, Mr. Luchini said, "There are currently no California pharmacies that I know of employing doctors or pharmacists, although some may have access to medical" advisers "." He stressed that "we DO NOT make medical / supplementary recommendations: we provide suggestions based either on personal experience and industry research or on personal claims and testimonials from other customers" and that "when a customer mentions or questions the combination of their medication with cannabis we always do encourage you to check with your doctor first before consuming any cannabis product. "
So far, drug interactions have also not been an issue. "To date, we have seen over 80,000 unique patients in Oklahoma and no patients informing us of problems related to cannabis, which is a negative experience when used in conjunction with their other prescribed medications."
Interest groups are calling for more research. For example, AARP supports "further clinical research into the medical use of cannabinoids" and specifically calls upon "federal officials to examine options to enable more clinical research".
Marijuana is an increasingly popular medical choice for patients of all ages, including the elderly. Although research is scarce, many medical professionals see it as a promising alternative to common drugs. Ask your doctor if you want to try cannabis and live in an area where possession and use are legal.
Sean Marsala is a health journalist based out of Philadelphia, PA. With a passion for technology, you can usually find him reading, surfing the internet, and exploring virtual worlds.