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Senior’s Guide to Medical Marijuana

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Baby boomers, a name commonly associated with people born during the 50s, are now reaching their retiring age. With that comes a series of age-related illnesses and other health conditions that can affect their quality of life as they get through their golden ages. However, several surveys and studies have shown that the same age group has shown a great interest in searching for alternative routes in aiding their treatments, and medical marijuana has an all-time surge amongst this demography.

Cannabis, alongside its two common components, THC and CBD, is a constant medical study subject due to its multiple medical benefits. Senior citizens have taken great interest in what they can offer to them.

Whether you’re looking for guidance in how to navigate around the subject or you’re supporting a loved one through the process of obtaining and using medical marijuana for their illnesses, the following senior’s guide to medical marijuana can help you take the next steps towards getting legal access and improve your quality of life.

Definition of medical marijuana

First, there may be some confusion as to what may be catalogued as medical marijuana. Some people think that it’s the same drug they see on the streets, which may be infused with other medications, and is improperly grown. Sometimes you’re not even certain if you’re purchasing authentic marijuana.

What we know is that medical marijuana comes from the pure, uncut cannabis plant. Certified manufacturers extract the two main chemicals from cannabis, known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), and process them with high standards and procedures to offer different formats and products to help treat patients with various medical issues. However, sometimes the plant as a whole is used to help with some medical conditions too. 

The vital aspect of medical marijuana is that it has to be prescribed by a doctor as a medical treatment for a health condition. At a federal level, marijuana is still considered an illegal drug, but over 30 states have changed their marijuana legislation to allow citizens to access it for medical purposes.

How to access medical marijuana

While the details about how to obtain medical marijuana through your doctor and buy it at a local dispensary can vary from state to state, you usually need a medical assessment and certification to receive your medical marijuana card. The process can take a couple of weeks, depending on your area’s processing times. However, if you’re wondering, ‘Do I need to search for a medical marijuana doctor near me and talk about my situation?’ The answer is Yes! By visiting your doctor, you can take the opportunity to have a basic understanding of your state’s regulations about the use of medical marijuana and get referrals to local dispensaries in the area.

Whether your doctor missed out on some explanations or you still have questions, you can ask the people working at the dispensaries about any questions, concerns, or reservations you have about medicinal marijuana. It is one of the few places where you’ll get the right information about which product is best for your condition by knowledgeable, passionate, and patient people. 

Why seniors are so interested in medicinal marijuana

One of the main reasons behind the rising interest of senior citizens in using medicinal marihuana comes from wanting to replace prescription medications with a more gentle alternative that doesn’t come with negative side effects when dealing with multiple medications. It is a common desire, considering that most senior citizens’ quality of life starts decreasing due to the overuse of prescription medications like opiates, which is the complete opposite of what they’re aspiring for when visiting their doctors. Therefore, medicinal marijuana comes with little to no drawbacks of its use.

There’s also a social and cultural component to this rise. Some seniors used to smoke marijuana in their youth but decided to stop consuming once they got settled in with their family and children. But now that they’ve accomplished these personal goals, these testimonies mention that they return to medicinal marijuana as a way to benefit from its medical properties and enjoy the recreational aspect from it at the same time. 

One of the most vital aspects of keeping a healthy lifestyle after reaching this age gap is maintaining social contact and seeking like-minded people to combat loneliness and boredom. Based on this, it’s no surprise that seniors can benefit from learning more about cannabis properties and experiment with what works best with their medical conditions. Senior cannabis clubs have appeared in states with regularized medicinal marijuana usage. They can hold informal social meetings and sponsor social events to listen to speakers talk about therapeutic marijuana-related topics and cannabis in general. 

How can seniors benefit from marijuana consumption

It’s important to note that medicinal marijuana can include both cannabinoid extracts, or you can choose only THC or CBD. In simple terms, what you should most care about is that THC has a psychoactive effect, while CBD still offers significant medicinal benefits without the feeling of getting high.

Nowadays, marijuana works more like palliative therapy for seniors, and it’s highly uncommon that people use it on their own to cure or prevent any condition. In no particular order, some of the conditions which greatly benefit from medicinal marijuana consumption are:

  • Chronic pain management is one of the most common reasons seniors seek to try marijuana as palliative therapy. Chronic pain amongst seniors comes in the shape of arthritis and other autoimmune conditions. The most common body areas affected are joints and spine, but pain can increase with age in general and make daily tasks, as simple as walking, quite challenging. Treatments can include over-the-counter pills, lotions, prescribed medications, acupuncture, massages, and chiropractic care, just to name a few. Medicinal marijuana has proven anti-inflammatory properties that seniors can benefit from whether they decide to smoke, eat or apply ointments and lotions to their skin with cannabinoid extracts.
  • A significant percentage of the senior population may suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, affecting their cognition and memory thereby, causing symptoms of depression and loss of appetite. Marijuana helps stimulate hunger response to avoid prolonged periods of fasting and nutritional deficiency. There are even some preliminary studies that have shown promising results on how THC may help slow down the advancement of these degenerative brain diseases.
  • Glaucoma is caused when the eyes lose the ability to regulate their fluid levels, which can damage the optic nerves and can cause decreased vision and blindness if left untreated. Even if it’s an inherited condition, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness amongst people over 65 years since symptoms only start to appear in later stages of life. Smoking marijuana has shown effectiveness in lowering intraocular pressure for up to four hours. However, seniors can also combine their palliative therapy with edibles to regulate glaucoma symptoms with similar success.
  • Loneliness can be a struggling issue among seniors, which can lead to a series of mental health issues, including depression, panic attacks, and eating disorders. Medical marijuana, particularly CBD, has also been prescribed to help cope with anxiety and other mental health issues. Studies have shown that it similarly stimulates serotonin receptors that anxiolytic medication, and it offers little to no side effects in comparison. 

Myths surrounding medicinal marijuana

There’s no denying the increasing popularity amongst seniors in looking for several options to consume marijuana for medical purposes. However, some people are still sceptical about its benefits based on myths and erroneous beliefs that are based on outdated popular notions and lack of access to updated knowledge.

For instance, the belief that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder substances, like heroin or cocaine, doesn’t have any scientific evidence to back it up with. This myth was widely spread when marijuana gained popularity in the 60s as a recreational drug, but events in the following decades also debunked that association. 

Another widespread misconception surrounding marijuana is that it can cause addiction and overdose. This is far from reality based on the data available since even recreational marijuana usage has shown far less damaging effect in contrast to alcohol, heroin, cocaine, or even prescription medicine like opioids. In short, there are no risks in getting physically addicted to cannabis, and there are few side effects from heavy consumption aside from your individual tolerance to psychedelic components.

If you or a loved one is looking to get their medical card and start using medical marijuana to help alleviate any health condition, be certain that there are plenty of people in a similar position that has seen beyond the stigma and are advocating for the amazing benefits this plant has to offer. Now more than ever, seniors are taking a stand on searching for better alternatives to traditional medication to improve their quality of life. Medicinal marijuana is a promising field that will have more development as new products and studies start to pop up. 

At the same time, calls for widespread legalisation across the country continue to get stronger as people learn more about this plant’s benefits, regardless of their age.

Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.

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