Senior use of Medical Cannabis
The largest increase in growth of medical cannabis use is in people older than 55 years.
From 2013-2014 it rose by more than half. Many people seem surprised by these
numbers as this is the age group who have traditionally opposed to any legalization of
cannabis. They grew up with the beginning of the war on drugs, Mrs. Reagan' "just say
no" campaign, the ads showing an egg frying on an iron skillet as a metaphor for "your
brain on drugs" and likely know someone" who" family has been ravaged by drug
While many consider it ironic that the very group usually opposed to cannabis
legalization is embracing medical cannabis as a treatment, it really makes sense.
Chronic pain is the number one diagnoses for which patients receive a recommendation
for medical cannabis. As we age, arthritis, muscle spasms, sciatica, and complications
of other diseases such as peripheral neuropathy from diabetes develop and chronic
pain is the result. Patients have usually received the usual medications for chronic pain
conditions before considering medical cannabis and there are many reasons they are
choosing to try it. Perhaps the side effects of their medications are worrisome, they are
not getting enough relief, they wish to avoid the risks of using or can no longer get
opioids, they can't take some of the usual medications because of other medical
problems or perhaps they wish to try a natural medication that is usually much safer
than most of those prescribed or the over the counter drugs often taken at higher than
Most of the patients I have been seeing for new medical cannabis recommendations do
fit into the 50 year and older range. Most have not used cannabis before or it was in
their youth. Many have disapproved of "pot smokers" for most of their lives but have
now seen countless people who have seen their lives improved, some even saved,
since medical cannabis has been legalized in some of the states. They have also seen
that the dire predictions of opponents of cannabis not come to pass. Now with their pain
affecting the quality of their life, the problems or limitations of some medications
experienced and the fatigue of being on the merry go round of trying medication after
medication at often large cost, medical cannabis seems worth a try.
A good friend of mine in this age group has always been opposed to cannabis use in
any way, shape or form. She does enjoy a healthy life and has not had anything, except
occasional insomnia for which to need medications. Last summer she called me. Her
brother was visiting and developed a flare up of pancreatitis as well as a big flare of
peripheral neuropathy. He couldn't walk or eat and had constant belly pain. His doctor
was unavailable. My advice was that her brother should obtain a specific strain of
cannabis as a vape oil, to which she reluctantly agreed. I then counseled him on how to
properly use it. His pain went away. He could walk and eat again. His holiday to visit
family was spent enjoying time with them instead of lying in bed, miserable. She called it
"magic-juana" after seeing the results herself. Even so, she still harbors a deep
suspicion of the medication but does now think, perhaps, for some people, it has a
place in medicine.
Perhaps you are like my friend and have a prejudice against cannabis. Perhaps you
think you will be a "pot head" if you use medical cannabis. Perhaps you are like the
others who have not been helped enough or have had problems with medications in the
past. Don't let the stigmas of the past affect the choices for your health and quality of life
now. Although not for everyone, it safely can help many. You or your family may be one.
Medical cannabis is medicine.
Brian Nichol MD