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Reasons Seniors Are Using Medical Marijuana

With the recent pushes toward legalization, cannabis use has become more common across all age brackets, including senior citizens. Here are some of the most common reasons seniors are using medical marijuana today.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

It seems, more and more, that the age-old question as to whether marijuana is a drug or medicine is at the forefront of the public's mind. It is true that cannabis's uses as a pain relief aid are widely known. It is also true, though, that in spite of its effectiveness, medical marijuana remains illegal in about half of the United States. As the nation slowly trudges toward universal legalization, more and more people are turning to smoking marijuana or ingesting CBD oil to cope with chronic pain and other medical conditions. This raises the question: Who are the fastest growing group of medical marijuana users? Senior citizens. Between 2006 and 2013, marijuana use among Americans aged 65 and up grew by over 250 percent. Here are just some of the many reasons seniors are using medical marijuana now more than ever before.

Chronic Pain Relief

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One of the main reasons people turn to medical marijuana is for general pain relief. Senior citizens statistically experience the most pain out of any age group, so it makes sense why so many seniors are turning to cannabis when other prescription pain relievers aren't doing the trick. Cannabis and CBD oil have natural anti-inflammatory effects, which can reduce pain and tension in the body. Furthermore, the CBD in cannabis interacts with and stimulates the body's natural pain-killing receptors like the endocannabinoid system. This amounts to a recipe for extremely effective pain treatment, and one of the main reasons seniors are using medical marijuana is to experience the pain relief it provides.


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Before the recent push toward wider spread cannabis legalization, popular culture would often take jabs at medical marijuana, surreptitiously alluding to it as "glaucoma medication." This age-old association is no mistake, as cannabis is practically a miracle cure for glaucoma, providing natural and long-lasting relief for the disease. Glaucoma is no joke; increased fluid near the eye causes a painful pressure to build up, and it is the leading cause of blindness for senior citizens over sixty. Compared to other glaucoma treatments, medical marijuana is much more affordable and actually much more effective.

Alzheimer's and Dementia

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Alzheimer's disease is one of the most harmful diseases affecting senior citizens and older adults because of the damage it can do to its sufferers, but because of the lasting impact it has on their families and loved ones as well. Despite the recent steps toward more widespread legalization, cannabis is still woefully under-researched, so the exact relationship between cannabis and Alzheimer's is not completely understood. Preliminary studies have shown, however, that micro-doses of THC are actually quite effective at combatting the toxic proteins in the brain that can cause Alzheimer's and dementia.

Parkinson's Disease

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Parkinson's disease is another terrible condition that can affect anyone at any age, but senior citizens are particularly susceptible to it. Parkinson's disease damages the body's motor skills by attacking brain cells that produce dopamine. Today there is no known cure for Parkinson's disease, and there are few effective treatments. While the medical community has not been able to reverse the damage Parkinson's inflicts on dopamine-producing cells, preliminary studies have shown that cannabis use can ease some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, namely tremors and muscle rigidity. 


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Cancer was the original driving force behind the first push toward legalized medical marijuana in California more than twenty years ago. Cancer patients found that smoking marijuana was helpful in alleviating the side effects of chemotherapy. More recent research has shown that beyond this benefit, cannabis can actually slow the growth of many common types of cancer by killing cancer cells and preventing metastasis. The risk of cancer increases with age, so cannabis' effectiveness at combating the disease is one of the main reasons seniors are using medical marijuana in tandem with other forms of treatment. 

Loss of Appetite

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One statistic that many are shocked to learn is that senior citizens account for more than three quarters of all anorexia deaths in the United States. Many seniors become susceptible to a wider array of diseases as a result of loss of appetite. Often a side effect of chronic pain, loss of appetite can lead to seniors becoming severely malnourished. Medical marijuana is one of the most effective preventative measures against appetite loss in senior citizens. Not only does it have a natural appetite-stimulating effect, cannabis also helps alleviate the underlying chronic pain that is often a cause for appetite loss in the first place.

Lack of Sleep

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Like a loss of appetite, lack of sleep is an often-ignored condition that affects many seniors. Losing sleep due to insomnia or other factors can cause long-term issues for senior citizens, including making them more susceptible to diseases or other harmful medical conditions. Many strains of cannabis and even CBD oil have been known to have relaxing properties which can help senior citizens fall asleep and stay asleep. One important note is that smoking marijuana affects your sleep patterns and can cause you to dream less. Compared to many chemical-laden sleep remedies on the market today, however, cannabis can be a preferable alternative for seniors suffering from insomnia.

Depression and Anxiety

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Many people may not realize that senior citizens and other older adults are just as susceptible to depression as younger generations. More than seven million senior citizens aged 65 and older suffer from depression each year, and senior citizens account for roughly 16% of suicide deaths due to depression. In addition to providing physical pain relief, cannabis is well-known for its generally positive effect on mental health. Ingesting medical marijuana or CBD oil can reduce anxiety and can prevent or treat depression.

New Methods of Ingestion

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Obviously, various types of pain and medical conditions are absolutely acceptable reasons for senior citizens—or anyone else—to use medical marijuana. But it's not like chronic pain and glaucoma didn't exist twenty or thirty years ago. One of the most important reasons seniors are using medical marijuana now to treat their conditions is that, along with the reduced public stigma, marijuana has become much easier to ingest. In other words, a senior citizen doesn't have to smoke a joint anymore just to experience some pain relief. There is now a nearly endless array of options for edible products, so senior citizens now have the best cannabis edibles to choose from. More unique and specialized products, like topical cream, also allow older adults to experience localized pain relief without having to orally ingest anything.

It's now possible to skip the high.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

While modern edibles have revolutionized the way people ingest their medical marijuana, many seniors are also turning to CBD oil for relief from chronic pain due to a variety of medical conditions. CBD oil is a specific type of medical marijuana from which the THC has been removed. In other words, CBD oil won't get you high, but it retains the other pain relief benefits of cannabis. CBD oil can stop migraines and headaches as well as provide relief from other types of bodily pain. CBD oil has made it possible for many seniors and other adults to receive the pain relief they need without having to deal with the usual side effects of medical marijuana.

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