The prevalence of cannabis use among older adults (aged 65 and above) for both recreational and medicinal purposes has significantly increased in recent years.
Information regarding the safety of cannabis in this population is important since aging is associated with metabolic changes, multiple morbidities, increases in prescription medication use, and an overall decline in functioning.
The history behind cannabis starts as far back as about 5,000 years when it was being used as a medicine. Commonly used in the 1800s and early 1900s, however, under the first federal marijuana law of 1937 in the United States the substance was prohibited and effectively banned the use of cannabis. Cannabis has been legal for medical use in Canada since 2001. On October 17th, 2017, cannabis became federally legal for recreational consumption.
There are studies that show it can be effective to manage pain and spasticity along with people finding benefits in assisting with sleep issues, appetite stimulation, and to combat nausea (often from chemotherapy).
According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, a few clinical trials have identified that cannabis can help limit behavioural symptoms in people with dementia, including agitation and physical responsive behaviours / personal expressions, but only in some cases.
You have choices when using medical cannabis, there are products with THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and products with CBD (cannabidiol).
THC: Cannabinoid receptors are concentrated in certain areas of the brain associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination, and time perception. THC attaches to these receptors and activates them which can lead to elevated mood, relaxation, and increased appetite. As mentioned above, It can also help with pain, sleep, and spasticity. THC is the primary molecule responsible for the euphoria associated with cannabis.
CBD: Cannabidiol provides the user’s benefits without the feeling of euphoria or intoxication that some people feel from THC. CBD has strong anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, in addition to being neuroprotective and helping with anxiety.
Both of these forms of cannabis can be consumed in different varieties. The dried product can be vaporized, oils can be ingested via capsules or consuming the oil right from the dosed syringe.
A recent study, published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, found that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and effective for older persons who need relief from chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other disorders.