By Pam Chmiel Those in the 65+ age group are prime candidates to benefit from cannabis since it treats the symptoms they commonly seek relief from, like pain, anxiety, cancer, and degenerative conditions such as ALS, MS, and Parkinson’s disease. But there are unique challenges in getting this group to buy into the medicinal or…
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By Pam Chmiel
Those in the 65+ age group are prime candidates to benefit from cannabis since it treats the symptoms they commonly seek relief from, like pain, anxiety, cancer, and degenerative conditions such as ALS, MS, and Parkinson’s disease.
But there are unique challenges in getting this group to buy into the medicinal or recreational benefits of cannabis, more so than other demographics.
The elderly tend to feel vulnerable, cautious, and hesitant to try cannabis since many take a daily concoction of prescription drugs. And for decades, they have heard that cannabis is a gateway drug and, most importantly, an illegal substance. How do we convince them that marijuana actually serves as an exit drug off harder substances and can help patients come off of prescription drugs and decrease alcohol abuse?
Physicians, like those working with CannaMD in Florida, are on a mission to educate and connect the elderly looking to explore and possibly seek treatment from a cannabinoid specialist. I spoke to Jessica Walters, Chief Medical Researcher at CannaMD, to get her insights into the elderly community and their mindset.
What are the top questions/concerns many ask when contacting CannaMD?
The primary concern is: “I want relief, but I don’t want to feel high.” This question presents a perfect opportunity for CannaMD physicians to educate patients on the different cannabinoids and their health and wellness benefits.
Most older adults take some sort of medication and are concerned about adding cannabis to their treatment plan, and rightly so. One particular point that I like to bring up is the mortality risk associated with standard classes of drugs like opioids. When you compare that to the risk profile of cannabis, there has never been a documented death from marijuana, right? Even the side effects of other drugs like benzodiazepines are more frightening.
If you look at cognitive function, research has shown time and time again that cannabis is neuroprotective. But the risk profiles for prescription drugs show that plenty of patients never return to their baseline cognitive function levels after long-term use.
Are the minority communities utilizing cannabis doctors for treatment, or are they too fearful given the impact the war on drugs had on their communities?
The war on drugs has definitely left its mark, and it’s an uphill battle to overcome associated stigmas and fears. However, Florida is attempting to address this issue through funding initiatives embedded in the Consortium for Medical Marijuana Research to educate the minority community on the benefits of medical marijuana.
Can you tell me about the clinical studies CannaMD supports?
CannaMD is currently leading a study on medical cannabis and anxiety, in conjunction with Florida Gulf Coast University and ReLeaf App. We’re studying specific THC/CBD ratios and how those ratios impact anxiety symptoms, which is a really exciting area of research. CannaMD also served as a recruitment site for the University of Florida in 2019. Results were published in the peer-reviewed journal article: “Health Outcomes Among Adults Initiating Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain: A 3-month Prospective Study Incorporating Ecological Momentary Assessment.”
CannaMD reprised its role in 2020, with a second study on Cannabis and PTSD, before recruiting participants for a separate project: the Consortium’s Contact Registry.
Now, our network of cannabis doctors serves as a recruitment site for the Medical Marijuana & Me (M3) Cohort Study – facilitating statewide research on medical marijuana outcomes among current and new patients.
CannaMD actively introduces the elderly population to new studies and confronts associated stigmas head-on by providing the latest scientific peer-reviewed research (and not just articles on Yahoo News!).
For decades, we have witnessed people getting locked up for cannabis. Misinformation about the plant was drilled into us by highly respected agencies, causing a deep-rooted stigma. How do we change these perceptions?
There’s a lot of confusion around the legality of the medication amongst the elderly. I am shocked that so many Florida residents don’t realize that it’s legal or feel it must be way more complicated than it actually is. We even have patients in their 20s who are just as nervous and cautious as the elderly.
We’ve been connecting with the senior communities in the area to serve as a local resource regarding the research and legality, and they have been very receptive.
How educated in general is the elderly community on cannabis and its medicinal effects?
Generally speaking, the elderly community has been inundated with anti-cannabis propaganda for years. So, breaking that stigma and introducing new research can be an uphill battle. However, we’ve found patients pleasantly surprised at the level of relief they can achieve with medical cannabis and thrilled with their decision to try a more natural alternative to pharmaceutical medication.
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