4 Ways Medical Marijuana Is Helping the Elderly Feel Better

By Kate Harveston

Medical marijuana is a contentious topic, but more and more studies are emerging that say the same thing — it has a variety of benefits for a growing number of diagnoses. One emerging field is the use of medical marijuana in geriatric or elderly care. So how is medical marijuana helping the elderly feel better?

Pain Management

Traditional pain management for elderly patients relies on the use of opioid pain relievers that can be dangerous. They carry the risk of addiction and overdose, and are becoming more and more difficult to obtain. Medical marijuana provides a safer alternative for pain management for elderly patients. Many studies have shown marijuana is dramatically safer than opioids because it has few to no side effects and can reduce pain in elderly patients without the risk of addiction.

This study found cannabis is capable of reducing pain and improving quality of life in patients over age 65. Seventy percent of the patients reported significant improvements in their conditions during the study.

Appetite Improvement

It often gets more difficult for elderly patients to get the nutrition they need because they tend to eat less as they age. There are a variety of reasons for this, from mobility issues that make it harder to cook or retrieve food to dental pain or changes in the senses of taste or smell. Whatever the reason, getting proper nutrition can become more challenging as a patient ages.

Medical marijuana could be the solution to this in many cases because of one of marijuana’s well-known, oft-stereotyped side effects: the “munchies.” How this actually works is that marijuana’s presence in the body increases anandamide levels as well as the hormone ghrelin. Both of these improve appetite by making you feel hungry.

In addition to this, marijuana can often help boost a patient’s senses of smell and taste — a reduction in these senses due to age can make food less enjoyable and encourage elderly patients to eat less as a result.

Treatment for Arthritis or Neuropathy

We’ve already mentioned the use of medical marijuana for pain management, but what about conditions like neuropathy or arthritis that might not respond to traditional pain treatment techniques?

Neuropathic pain is the result of inflammation along the nerve channels, and most chemical pain relievers don’t help improve it. Arthritis is another inflammatory condition that affects the joints. Medical marijuana can be beneficial for both of these conditions because one component of the drug — cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive part of marijuana — acts as a natural anti-inflammatory compound.

CBD has shown to be an effective treatment for conditions like neuropathy or arthritis, both of which are common complaints among elderly patients.

Mental Health Treatments

Mental health is another big concern for elderly patients and the medical professionals who care for them. As of 2013, researchers found roughly 15 percent of elderly patients suffer from some form of mental illness, ranging from depression and anxiety to bipolar disorder. Many of these individuals did not receive a diagnosis earlier in life and had to learn to cope with their symptoms on their own.

In the elderly, medical marijuana has proven to be beneficial for the treatment of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, PTSD and OCD, primarily because it stimulates the brain’s serotonin receptors. It isn’t the best option for everyone, however. In some patients, smoking marijuana or using products with high THC can trigger anxiety attacks. An assessment by a medical professional is the best course of action where this subject is concerned.

Medical marijuana may still be a touchy subject for many people, but mounting evidence shows that it can be extremely beneficial for a surprising variety of different diagnoses, especially for elderly patients. A growing number of patients over 65 are relying on medical marijuana to improve their quality of life, and that number will surely only continue to grow as more states choose to legalize this medication for recreational and medical use.

 

Kate is an online journalist from Pennsylvania. Her passions lie in writing about health and healthcare. You can find more of her work at her personal blog, So Well, So Woman.

 

54 comments

Georgina Elizab M

Very interesting tyfs

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Thomas M
Past Member 18 days ago

Thanks

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Ruth S
Ruth S18 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S18 days ago

Thanks.

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Mona Pietsch
Mona Pietsch18 days ago

thanks

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Christine S
Christine S18 days ago

thanks

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Marija M
Marija M19 days ago

Interesting, tks.

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Melanie St. Germaine
Melanie S19 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Toni W
Toni W19 days ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W19 days ago

TYFS

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