Should you?
With 38 states legalizing the medical use of cannabis, its popularity with older adults 65+ has sprouted several studies about its efficacy in treating anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia, PTSD, and some side effects of cancer treatments. The fields of psychiatry and psychotherapy are taking note of its effectiveness in treating agitation and combativeness. Anecdotally, in geriatric groups without these needs, medical cannabis patients have found its many forms especially useful with inflammation, arthritis, and common age-related conditions. That said, the litmus test for whether an MMJ physician should prescribe cannabis to the elder population is dependent on several patient-specific variables.

As with any prescription, an older patient must be pre-screened for any harmful predispositions such as balance impairment, problems operating a motor vehicle, home safety (negotiating stairs, operating stoves) and problems with their activities of daily living (ADLs). Naturally, risk assessment must precede all cannabis certifications for this population as is true with all potential medical cannabis patients.

If given the choice to use medical cannabis or to use “big pharma” medications, the patient could decide against medical advice (AMA) to discontinue their regular medication regimen. This poses a dangerous, potentially life-threatening situation. So, how does a medical cannabis patient balance the pros and cons of medical cannabis therapy as a treatment option?

There are some matters to consider prior to a medical marijuana physician starting a cannabis-use regimen for the 65+ population:

  • Is this patient driving alone, or is a family member or licensed caregiver their responsible driver? If neither, can they safely use paratransit with little or no assistance on stairs/steps?
  • Does this person take mood-altering, psychoactive medication already? How might the cannabis react or intensify the foreseen side effects?
  • Is there someone in their support system who monitors their usage, a person who can relay any concerns to the MMJ physician on behalf of the patient?
  • Does the patient exhibit symptoms of a degenerative brain disease such as
    Alzheimer ‘s Disease & related Dementias?


What About Planning?
Communicating with physicians, pharmacists and the cannabis patient’s support system is an integral part of any treatment plan. It's also critical cannabis patients have a transparent discussion with their cannabis dispensary manager about their health profile. While there is no certification nor licensure to legally dispense medical counseling for MMJ, the manager can direct patients to the right categories of MMJ that contain the levels of THC, CBD,CBN, CBG, the strains, the varietals, including topicals, tinctures, tablets, edibles, concentrates, flower—and so forth--- that are most effective for a patient’s particular needs.

We’re growing in the right direction. All pharmacists can and should be educated about medical marijuana and be able to have a private, frank discussion with medical cannabis patients about any interactions that may exist with their other prescribed medications.

And even though there are many challenges and barriers in conducting cannabis research, this area of research is limitless, and we can be thankful that cannabis is a viable alternative to many pharmaceuticals for so many. The elder population now holds the power to make informed decisions about their healthcare in a dignified way.


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