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More Seniors Rejecting Pharmaceutical Drugs for Medical Cannabis

Outdoor shot of a retired couple relaxing on a park bench with woman pointing at something interesting. Elderly man and woman sitting on a bench outdoors and enjoying the view.

Outdoor shot of a retired couple relaxing on a park bench.

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

It’s becoming well known that older Americans are the country’s fastest-growing population of new cannabis users for medicinal purposes.

More and more seniors are seeking refuge from polypharmacy [1], which is a culmination of five to maybe 25 costly pharmaceutical drugs being taken daily that actually diminish their quality of life. 

Fortunately, there are legitimate cannabis studies supporting seniors’ need for replacing toxic pharmaceutical drugs with medical cannabis, making it easier for baby boomers who never inhaled to switch from polypharmacy to cannabis. 

This article will cite some of those cannabis studies that relate specifically to the age-related discomforts, sleep disorders, lower energy, pains, and diseases that tarnish their “Golden Years.” 

Israeli Study Shows the Seniors’ Movement to Cannabis is Effective and Safe

Israel was a research pioneer in medical cannabis that is now supporting and expanding medical cannabis use in that nation. Their research during the 1960s and 70s led to establishing what is now known as the endocannabinoid system [2] inherent in mammalian bodies. 

It started in 1964 when Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam isolated the cannabinoid THC as the most prominent cannabinoid in cannabis. Shortly after, Mechoulam and his team discovered CBD or cannabidiol as a secondary cannabinoid in cannabis.

After some more molecular discoveries, Mechoulam and his team sort of reverse-engineered the plant’s cannabinoids to map out the mammalian cannabinoid system that works to improve many different physiological systems. (Source) [3]

The various cannabinoid receptors are activated by consuming cannabis to enhance the body’s ability to heal.

 A March 2018 Israeli epidemiological study report, Epidemiological characteristics, safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in the elderly [4] was published by the European Journal of Internal Medicine to determine the safety and efficacy of rapidly increasing cannabis use among the elderly.

The researchers surveyed 2,736 patients over 65 who were using cannabis as medical treatment from January 2015 to October 2017. Here are the study reports highlights:

The study authors concluded: 

Our study finds that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and efficacious in the elderly population. Cannabis use may decrease the use of other prescription medicines, including opioids. (Source) [4]

Other Studies Confirming Positive Anecdotal Experiences with Cannabis to Benefit the Elderly

Varying degrees of depression occur among many senior citizens. Many begin sliding into depression from helplessly enduring debilitating health issues. But a large part of healing those issues involves one’s emotional state.

There are anecdotal testimonies of overcoming depression with CBD or cannabidiol. A study to determine the mechanics or biochemical permutations of CBD’s anti-depressant effects, if any, was undertaken by researchers in Brazil and Denmark working jointly.

Their 2018 cannabidiol (CBD) animal (mouse) study, Cannabidiol Induces Rapid and Sustained Antidepressant-Like Effects Through Increased BDNF Signaling and Synaptogenesis in the Prefrontal Cortex, was published by the journal Molecular Neurobiology in February 2019.

After multiple physical tests rigged to determine or induce depressive behavior, the individual test research results indicated that CBD had induced acute and sustained antidepressant-like effects in the mice. 

In conclusion, this study demonstrates that CBD induces a rapid antidepressant effect, probably by increasing BDNF signaling in the PFC and synaptic dendritic spine density. Moreover, a long-lasting enhancement of synaptic efficacy could mediate CBD-sustained antidepressant effects.

Cannabis also comes to the rescue for opioid addictions, which have been increasing among those over 50, often as a result of an operation or joint replacement leaving them under intense pain. 

A review study of the literature concerning combating opioid withdrawal with cannabis was conducted by researchers at two universities in St. Louis, Missouri. After reviewing several studies concerning opioid withdrawal aided with cannabis, the researchers concluded:

The compelling nature of these data and the relative safety profile of cannabis warrant further exploration of cannabis as an adjunct or alternative treatment for OUD [opioid use disorder].

Evidence-based opioid prescription and cannabis recommendation practices are a critical component of continuing education, so that clinicians can continue to uphold their Hippocratic oaths to “do no harm.” (Source) [5]

Diminishing eyesight is another concern of many seniors. An animal study using monkeys studied the effect of CBD’s effect on the eyes using highly sophisticated equipment that “measures the electrical activity generated by neural and non-neuronal cells in the retina in response to a light stimulus.” (Source) [6] 

This study [7] seemed to be focused on determining CBD’s effect for the benefit of Big Pharma’s desire to create synthetic versions rather than extracts from the whole hemp or cannabis plants. Nevertheless, it concluded:

Manipulating the endocannabinoid system might therefore serve as a therapy to restore normal vision and protect the retina.

Of course, it’s better for extracts directly from whole plant cannabis to manipulate the endocannabinoid system rather than synthetic cannabinoid molecules. 

Other studies [8] demonstrated whole plant cannabis with THC improves night vision. That’s something older people can relate to. 

Of course, a major concern among the elderly is neurological and brain health highlighted by Alzheimer’s disease concerns. A 2106 study [9] Amyloid proteotoxicity initiates an inflammatory response blocked by cannabinoids provided a look into whole plant cannabis neuro-protective potential.

This research determined that using cannabis with THC could block the brain’s inflammatory response by reducing the intraneuronal Aβ proteotoxicity. This could reduce Alzheimer’s disease initiation or progression. The study was elaborated more in the following Health Impact News article:

Study: Cannabis More Effective Than Pharmaceutical Drugs for Age-Related Neurodegenerative Diseases Like Alzheimer’s [10]

The rigors of chemotherapy wind up killing several elderly people with compromised immune systems. Cannabis has anecdotally reversed cancer in the over 50 population without side effects. See:

Older Americans Turning to Cannabis to Heal Cancer and Other Diseases [11]

The following short video explains the endocannabinoid system’s functions and how it can be “supplemented” with whole plant cannabis. 

An Example of How the Cannabis Danger Myth is Losing Traction with Seniors

The “polypharmacy” issue is mostly why 70-year-old retired school principal and former anti-marijuana mom Sue Taylor became a medical marijuana advocate for the elderly in Alameda County (Oakland, CA) after she educated herself on the health benefits of cannabis. 

Sue Taylor explained her motivation to a New Yorker Magazine reporter: 

Seniors are the most vulnerable population we have. People think they can give them a pill and not worry if it’s gonna kill them because they’re almost dead anyway. 

Most seniors we see are taking fifteen to twenty-six pills a day. The doctor gives them a pill for [high blood pressure], which causes the thyroid to go out. The thyroid pill causes the liver to go out. The liver pill makes your pancreas go out of whack, and the list goes on. Most important, the patients are not getting better. They’re getting worse and worse. [emphasis added] (Source) [12]

There’s no doubt that cannabis provides a solution for a healthier, less stressful living for the growing number of aging individuals without them using pharmaceutical drugs. We all have to go some time. But why should our last years be miserable?

As more states and nations allow medical cannabis and more individuals release their “Reefer Madness” [13] programming, this trend will continue.