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Why Older Ohioans Stand to Benefit from Medical Cannabis

December 10, 2019 • • Medical MarijuanaMental HealthPain Relief
Why Older Ohioans Stand to Benefit from Medical Cannabis

Why Older Ohioans Stand to Benefit from Medical Cannabis

Medical cannabis can treat a number of disorders that disproportionately strike older Ohioans. There’s a conception that older Americans are suspicious of cannabis, and that only young adults are interested in medical marijuana. But more and more research suggests that medical marijuana may alleviate conditions found primarily in older adults, like Alzheimers and glaucoma. It’s clear that middle-aged and senior Ohioans stand to benefit from its recent legalization — and many in this demographic are in fact becoming newly interested in cannabis as a medical option.  When the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation polled 2,000 adults between the ages of 50 and 80, four out of five said they’d be in favor of medical cannabis if recommended by a doctor. Though they acknowledge medical marijuana’s possible positive effects, only 6% reported actually taking medical marijuana to address health issues, and just 14% believed medical marijuana would be a better treatment option for pain than prescription drugs. Nevertheless, a majority of seniors would likely support its use if more research was done on the effects of medical marijuana on their age group.  Unfortunately, even the scientific community concedes few such investigations have been done. Yet the studies that have been undertaken so far indicate seniors could see better health outcomes by adding medical cannabis to their therapy regimen for a variety of health issues. Simply put, medical cannabis can work for people of all ages.

The Benefits of Medical Marijuana for Seniors

Two studies in particular highlight how seniors can manage pain with medical marijuana. First, the Dent Neurologic Institute in Buffalo, New York studied 204 patients aged 75 and older enrolled in the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. Patients were given the active ingredients in medical cannabis — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — either by mouth in liquid or capsule form or through an electronic vaporizer.  Although about a third reported some negative side-effects which were lessened by adjusting the dosage, nearly 70% said their symptoms diminished. Fifty percent experienced pain relief, with a 32% reduction in the need for opioid pain medication. A significant percentage also reported improved sleep (18%), decreased neuropathy (15%), and lessened anxiety (10%). The ability of medical cannabis to alleviate pain also helps seniors be more productive at work. That was the finding of a study sponsored by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Temple University, where the participants were older than 51. The researchers found those who qualified in their state to take marijuana to treat a specific medical condition logged more hours at work. Therefore, the study concluded that “the potential negative effects medical marijuana may have on worker productivity are outweighed by the increased capacity of those under such treatment to work.”

How Seniors Benefit from Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana has been used successfully as a therapy for a variety of ailments. Many of those same disorders disproportionately affect older adults, including:
  • Pain: According to a study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, more than 80% of people between the ages of 57 to 85 take at least one prescription medication daily. Given the potential for addiction, a healthier alternative to relieve chronic pain from arthritis or cancer might be medical marijuana.
  • Cancer: In addition to pain, cancer patients also suffer extreme nausea due to chemotherapy. For many patients, medical marijuana can be an effective and safe way to combat this side effect of treatment. 
  • Weight Maintenance: One study determined that nearly 80% of deaths attributed to anorexia were seen in the elderly population. But a dose of medical marijuana stimulates the chemicals in the brain that increase appetite. This isn’t currently its own legal qualifying condition in Ohio, but for patients with other qualifying conditions, alleviating poor appetite could be a side benefit. 
  • Glaucoma: The incidence of glaucoma rises among older adults as their eyes cannot drain the fluids in the eye socket. This leads to a buildup of pressure in the eye. Medical marijuana has been shown to lighten the pressure on the eye for at least several hours.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease: The Alzheimer Association estimates 5.8 million Americans have been diagnosed with the disease, which is caused when proteins called beta-amyloids mass in the brain. A 2014 study revealed that THC slows the development of beta-amyloids.
Medical cannabis has been employed as a therapy for anxiety, sleep problems, and a number of mental health disorders as well. On the other hand, some studies suggest medical marijuana increases anxiety among users, so older patients should mention that to their recommending doctor if they are concerned. 

Is Medical Marijuana Right for You?

Older adults suffering from one of 21 conditions, including chronic pain, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and glaucoma, qualify for medical marijuana in Ohio. Medical cannabis has been proven a safe and effective therapy for people of all ages. The specialists at Lakewood Medical Clinic can discuss whether medical marijuana is the proper treatment option for your needs. Schedule your consultation today.