The cannabis consumer has evolved from your typical stoner to anyone who can benefit from incorporating cannabis or hemp into their life. With new research growing substantially, the public has begun to view cannabis for its therapeutic properties rather than its recreational use. In fact, to the surprise of many, older adults are the most prominent demographic, slowly taking over the industry’s attention.
In the past, medicinal cannabis was thought to be predominantly used by young adults. However, this belief is changing by the current increase of older patients opting for cannabis options. These patients suffer from pathologies that no longer allow them to mix certain medications. However, they still need to manage chronic pain or sleep disorders to have a better quality of life.
This is why, despite growing up in an era of explicit prohibition and misinformation, this demographic is slowly accepting cannabis and creating a high demand in the market. Here’s what you need to know about this trend and how it is shifting the market.
Cannabis, Senior Patients, Health, and Well-being.
According to the National Council of Aging, 80% of senior adults suffer from at least one chronic condition, 23% suffer from Diabetes, and one in four adults of the population experience mental disorders including anxiety, dementia, and depression (a number that is expected to rise to 15 million by 2030). In addition, these diagnoses are associated with a higher possibility of developing other conditions, including a greater incidence of suicide.
In fact, 75% of the money nationally spent in health is for chronic diseases, and only 1% is put on efforts to improve patients’ overall well-being and health.
According to JAMA, Cannabis used in adults of 65 and older adults increased by 75% between 2015 to 2018. This increasing demographic group (consisting mostly of the baby boomer generation/children of the sixties) is a significant portion of the United States’ current adult population (Ortman et al., 2014).
Kevin Yang, the author of a study based on the findings of a survey completed by 568 patients at a geriatrics clinic in La Jolla, California, found that 43% of older adults use Cannabis for more than one condition, and 70% expressed positive results that traditional pharmaceuticals haven't given them. Also, Yang believes Cannabis can substitute for currently prescribed medications, lowering the risk of opioids addiction, abuse, and related side effects.
As mentioned earlier, senior patients tend to take several medications simultaneously, with chronic pain and mental illness being two of the main reasons for turning to other options. Patients who have chosen to incorporate cannabis have begun to notice it as a safer alternative. There has never been a recorded overdose of cannabis. Its consumption does not present adverse side effects like irritability, nausea, vomiting, and other common mental health medications.
Also, pharmaceutical options usually have a higher risk of developing opioid addiction or an increasing need to raise dosage over time due to body resistance. Cannabis is not considered physically addictive, and the interaction with other pharmaceuticals do not represent a danger to the patient.
In senior patients, cannabis is a useful option for memory loss, controlling depression, chronic ailments, and making growing old much more comfortable and enjoyable.
Chronic Pain and The Elderly
One of the most common reasons to indicate Medicinal Cannabis is chronic pain. The National Academies of Science, in their recent report of November 2019, concluded that cannabis is useful for treating chronic pain in senior patients.
Chronic pain is a constant pain that can last for three to six months or more than expected. 89.7% of Colorado’s Cannabis Senior Patients listed problem as their primary or secondary condition. Over time, pain creates its own side effects that can further complicate treatment and decrease life quality (Whiteley, Nishi, 2016). The list of possible adverse effects can be insomnia, loss of appetite, depression, a sense of lack of control and helplessness, exhaustion, loss of mobility, loss of muscle mass, lowered immunity, and neurotransmitter imbalances.
Chronic problems alter senior patients’ daily activities and become a burden on their health care. Cannabis can help control pain and inflammation while balancing other physiological responses caused by it.
Senior Patients, other diseases and Cannabis
Cannabis can improve senior patients’ quality of life with Parkinson’s, Dementia, Sleep difficulties, and palliative treatment patients. For example, the implementation of THC derivatives such as extracts can improve neuropsychiatric symptoms, nocturnal motor activity, sleep duration, agitation, and appetite control without undesired effects.
Besides, sleeping disorders are present in over 50% of people above 65 years of age. Research suggests that cannabis might aid in sleep disorders due to its anxiolytic effect, and without a doubt, palliative patients can find relief with the implementation of cannabis.
The cannabis plant has over one hundred Cannabinoids and two hundred terpenes that can balance the brain and body that can provide long-term benefits when interacting with the Endocannabinoid System.
Cannabis can serve as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, which translates to nerves that can gain more plasticity, improve long-term memory, decrease depression, promote better restorative rest, and protect healthy brain cells. In contrast to what it was believed before, cannabinoids can kill brain cells, but not the healthy ones. (Whiteley, Nishi, 2016). Additionally, from the hundreds of existing cannabinoids, the cannabinoid CBD is now thought to promote neurogenesis, creating new brain cells. (Campos, et al. 2013)
Another remarkable fact is that the interaction of specific cannabinoids and terpenes can enhance the whole cannabis plant’s effects, offering more significant outcomes. This is known as the entourage effect.
Senior Patients, Cannabis and the Future
With the cannabis stigma slowly shifting, senior patients realize that it is neither “the devil’s plant,” or a one-size-fits-all solution; your mileage may vary. As always, more research is needed to support the already positive outcomes of incorporating Cannabis as part of our health routines.A reminder: Knowledge is power. Whatever age you may be, if you are cannabis curious and are thinking about incorporating options like cannabis and hemp in your life, we recommend doing your research and evaluating the decision with your physician. We are here to help.