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How Cannabis Can Help Seniors

Although marijuana has long had a negative stigma attached to it as a "stoner" drug solely meant to get users high, an increasing number of studies are proving that it has several medical and wellness benefits. Further, medical marijuana may also have a place in helping to improve mental and physical wellbeing among seniors.

Along with increased legalization of marijuana comes a host of new and innovative products designed to offer benefits that mimic those of traditional pharmaceutical drugs without actually having to smoke it. The beneficial cannabinoids of cannabis can be delivered in several ways and in different formats, such as oils, creams, edibles, and vapes.

CBD, in particular, is a compound in medical marijuana that doesn't get users high while still providing all the benefits of marijuana. For this reason, CBD-derived medical cannabis is particularly interesting to seniors and may have benefits that seniors may want to take advantage of.

What is Medical Marijuana?

Unlike illicit drugs that can be bought on the street from unlicensed parties, medical marijuana can only be accessed by licensed providers. This ensures that the product is derived from properly-grown marijuana plants in a supervised environment.

Medical marijuana comes from cannabis indica plants. Some medical marijuana products include specific cannabinoids - such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) - while others may incorporate all of the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes, the oils that give cannabis plants their distinct aromas (and may also have health benefits). The type of medical marijuana product used will depend on the medical condition being treated and the effect desired.

While there are over 100 cannabinoids in marijuana, CBD and THC are the two predominant chemicals in medical marijuana and can help treat various conditions.

Physical Benefits of Cannabis Use

There are certain physical conditions that tend to become more common as a person ages. And while there are currently be treatments and therapies available that can effectively counter the symptoms of such ailments, cannabis may be just as effective.

Reduces General Pain

General aches and pains tend to be quite a common theme among seniors as the body ages. For many, this can be debilitating, so much so that pharmaceutical pain medication may be sought to alleviate the discomfort.

However, medical cannabis may also help to successfully reduce general chronic pain in seniors. There are plenty of creams, lotions, and ointments available that can be used to specifically target areas on the body where pain is felt. Of course, medical marijuana may also be smoked, vaped, or eaten in order to feel its effects.

Studies have shown that cannabis may be effective at treating chronic pain by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors of the endocannabinoid system. Such interaction between the compounds of cannabis - such as CBD and THC - can result in a reduction of chronic or acute pain in seniors.

Promotes Better Sleep

Getting a good night's sleep can prove to be a real challenge for the elderly, especially those who live in group settings and living quarters. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults aged 65 years and older are more prone to waking up more frequently throughout the night in comparison to younger individuals.

While there are sleep aids that can be administered to counter this issue, they're often fraught with side effects, as many other pharmaceutical medications are. Instead, cannabis - and CBD in particular - may be a viable natural alternative to drugs to treat insomnia. In fact, cannabis treatment has already been shown to be a great option for treating insomnia.

Stimulates Appetite

Seniors tend to experience a loss of appetite with age. This can be exacerbated if they also suffer from an illness that requires appetite-suppressing treatments, such as chemotherapy.

Cannabis may be an effective tool to help seniors regain their appetite that's needed to nourish their bodies and keep them strong into their old age.

Alleviates Nausea

Certain medical treatments can cause nausea and vomiting in patients. Studies have found that cannabis may be effective in countering the effects of nausea caused by these medical treatments.

Relieves Eye Pressure From Glaucoma
Glaucoma affects the eyes and involves the buildup of fluid. This causes damage to the nerves of the eyeball and ultimately affects eyesight, even causing blindness.

While there are glaucoma eye drops available that can help relieve the pressure caused by the condition, marijuana may also have the same effect. That said, the effects of alleviated pressure from marijuana use is somewhat short-lived and only lasts a few hours.

Mental and Cognitive Benefits of Cannabis Use

In addition to various physical ailments that cannabis can help to alleviate, there are a number of mental and cognitive benefits of cannabis use.

Treats Depression and Anxiety

Depression is rather common among seniors, affecting about 6 million adults aged 65 years and over. Regardless of the cause of depression, it can be debilitating and can be an undertone to anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and relationship problems.

While there are various pharmaceutical drugs available that can treat depression and its symptoms, cannabis may also be an effective complement or alternative.

Prevents Seizures

Of all the ailments that cannabis has been linked to in terms of alleviating symptoms, seizures is perhaps the most well-known. Several studies have shown a link between cannabis compounds and the reduction in severity and frequency of seizures related to epilepsy disorders.

Cannabis has anti-seizure properties and is known to improve brain health by regulating the brain’s electrical activity. Seniors who suffer from seizures may find some comfort with cannabis, either in addition to or in place of traditional anti-seizure medications.

Alleviates Some Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that is characterized by impairment of proper brain function. Its symptoms may include hallucinations, delusions, and trouble concentrating.

Although further study is necessary, it has been suggested that cannabis may have an antipsychotic impact on the brain. Cannabis may be effective at improving communication in the nervous system and ensuring appropriate messages to various parts of the body. As such, cannabis can have a place in schizophrenia treatment, both among seniors and the rest of the population.

Improves Cognitive Abilities

With age, the memory tends to suffer. In fact, memory loss is a common phenomenon associated with aging. And while the brain slowly and gradually degenerates over time, this process can be slowed down through the use of cannabis.

Some studies suggest that cannabis can sharpen the mind and enhance mental clarity, therefore reducing the effects of memory loss and improving cognitive abilities.

Relieves PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe mental health condition that is characterized by anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts, negative flashbacks, and nightmares, and is brought on by a terrifying past event. Those with PTSD will typically relive the trauma over and over.

Treatment of PTSD typically involves increasing levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of pleasure and well-being. Cannabis may help to naturally increase these serotonin levels, which can therefore help to combat the negative thoughts and feelings commonly associated with PTSD.

Helps With Alzheimer’s Disease

It's estimated that about 5.6 million people aged 65 years and older suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. This degenerative brain disease causes gradual memory loss, inability to focus, confusion, and trouble completing simple tasks.

While there is no cure for the disease, cannabis may have a role in reducing its symptoms or even slowing its progression. Some studies suggest that THC may help to slow the advancement of beta-amyloids, which are protein clusters that accumulate on the brain and indicate the presence of Alzheimer's.

Further studies are needed, but such findings point to the potential of cannabis to be therapeutic for the disease.

How to Use Medical Marijuana

There are several ways to consume medical marijuana, depending on the comfort level of the user and the desired effects. Here are some common ways to use medical marijuana:

Smoking - Smoking marijuana - whether as a joint or with a water bong or pipe - can provide near-instant relief of some symptoms.

Vapes - Similar to smoking, "vaping" marijuana is slightly different in that the cannabis is only heated as opposed to burned. As such, vaping may be less irritating to the airways while still providing near-instant effects.

Edibles - Cannabis edibles are ample and varied and can include gummies, chewing gum, baked goods, and even beverages. Since it may take a little while to take full effect, it's important to be careful with edibles.

Topicals - Cannabis topicals are popular formats that can be used to target specific areas of pain.

Droplets - Tinctures can be dropped under the tongue, allowing the compounds of the marijuana to be absorbed through the mucous membranes in the mouth.

Capsules - Tablets and capsules are convenient and easy ways to consume cannabis, though they might make it more difficult to dose more specifically.

Final Thoughts

Seniors are often bombarded with medications to alleviate symptoms associated with various ailments. But while these medications may be helpful, medical marijuana is a natural alternative that can remedy specific conditions or lesson some of the symptoms experienced.

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