Don’t be surprised if you bump into grandma or grandpa at the dispensary. Studies suggest that seniors are a growing population of recreational cannabis users. And, thanks to the growing number of states legalizing recreational weed, canna-curios elders have better access to higher-quality weed and a greater variety of THC and CBD-infused products.
A study published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence, found that marijuana use has increased for middle-aged and older adults between 2015 and 2016. The survey found that nine percent of adults aged 50-64 had used marijuana in the last year. But 65 seems to be the cut-off age, only 2.9% of adults 65 or older admitted to using cannabis in the last year.
While these numbers aren’t staggering compared to the percentage of millenials who use cannabis – as high as 25 percent by some estimates – this age group may have different needs than younger users and may need to take a different approach to benefit from cannabis.
Seniors who use cannabis are doing more than reliving their rebellious teenage years, cannabis can provide effective relief for common, age-related ailments. Cannabis and CBD extracts can help ease the pain of arthritis and help calm insomnia in many patients.
A study by McGill University backs up claims that CBD provides effective pain-relief for chronic pain with minimal side effects. These findings suggest that CBD can help ease arthritis and joint pain even though CBD might not be the best treatment for acute pain like a sip on an icy sidewalk.
Cannabis has also been shown to help increase bone mass. Many older adults, especially women suffer from osteoporosis or low bone density. Research suggests that cannabis may be a part of osteoporosis treatments in addition to the already prescribed diet and exercise recommendations.
More research needs to be done to determine if there are drug interactions but current findings suggest cannabis can be a safer, less addictive alternative to opioids which are currently used to treat chronic pain and pain related to cancer. Studies have detailed the efficacy of cannabis for pain relief in older adults but few describe how cannabis may impact the nervous and digestive systems of seniors.
While the research is promising, cannabis isn’t a cure-all. But grandma and grandpa should dose with caution. Any change in medication or self-medication should be discussed with a medical professional, especially if the patient is under treatment for other conditions.
Just as many prescription medications have dosage recommendations by age and weight, cannabis doses should be adjusted for age and metabolism. With age, metabolism slows which means that the body may process cannabis more slowly. Someday there may be products or cannabis strains specifically formulated for seniors or those with slower metabolisms.
As with any new user, seniors should first start with microdosing and experiment with different cannabis products to find what works best for their lifestyle. Topical products like creams and oils may be the best bet for seniors seeking pain relief without any psychoactive effects.