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 abuse.

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 recommended doses.

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
Cannabis Expert