Oh, my aching back. Actually, it’s my neck. I’m starting to experience the wear and tear of aging and from years of computer use. As an old GenXer or young baby boomer, depending on how you define those age groups, I’m the perfect candidate for using cannabis medicine. According to a June 2019 University of Colorado study in the journal Drugs and Aging, cannabis use in older adults in the U.S. grew tenfold from 2007 to 2017.
As we age, we experience myriad changes in our bodies and brains. Our bodily functions can become impaired, our hormone production becomes irregular, and the daily stressors of life can lead to disease. Given the already documented therapeutic benefits of cannabis and CBD, it’s no wonder that older adults are increasingly trying and using cannabis.
The University of Colorado study stated that older adults who used cannabis for medical purposes reported positive outcomes. How can boomers and seniors benefit from cannabis? Many of the medicinal properties of cannabis can be beneficial to most adults at any stage of their lives but this is especially true for older adults.
Boomers and seniors are gravitating toward cannabis to address everything from pain and inflammation to insomnia and anxiety disorders to support during cancer treatments.
Cannabis contains numerous cannabinoids, the chemical compounds in the plant that possess certain properties and produce specific effects when introduced into the human body. Here’s a breakdown of the more prevalent cannabinoids called the “Big 6” and a few of their properties that could be beneficial to older adults.
• THC (tetrahydrocannabinol): Reduces pain and inflammation, eases nausea and vomiting, increases appetite, controls diarrhea, can protect neurons in the brain, aids sleep, and can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
• CBD (cannabidiol): Reduces pain by reducing inflammation, eases nausea, reduces seizures, and relieves anxiety.
• CBG (cannabigerol): Can treat glaucoma, decrease inflammation in inflammatory bowel syndrome, and is being studied to fight cancer. Can protect neurons in the brain, prevent bladder dysfunction, fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
• CBN (cannabinol): Acts as a sedative, reduces convulsions, and stimulates bone cell growth. Can also work as an antibiotic and antibacterial when applied topically.
• CBC (cannabichromene): Being studied to fight cancer, reduces pain and inflammation, promotes healthy brain function, stimulates bone tissue growth, acts as an antibiotic and antifungal on skin surfaces including inhibiting acne.
• THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin): Suppresses appetite, reduces pain, eases panic attacks, regulates blood sugar levels, stimulates bone growth, and being studied as a treatment for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Many of the preliminary studies for using cannabis to address disease can be found on the website for the National Institutes of Health. Thousands of scientific and medical studies focused on the medical uses of cannabis have been published from other countries such as Israel, Canada, New Zealand, and throughout Europe.
Cannabis and medicines
Many older adults are being treated with multiple medicines — one medicine to address a health issue and another to address the side effects of the first and so on. The use of multiple medications is known as “polypharmacy,” and cannabis can be a useful plant-based medicine for reducing the number of medications a person is taking.
The University of Colorado study found that older adults wanted more information about cannabis and desired to communicate with their health care providers but often found access to medical information lacking. Any adult, including boomers and seniors, who is seeking to use cannabis for medicine may be challenged to find a doctor in Alaska — or any other recreational or adult-use state — who can make recommendations or prescribe specific forms or dosages.
If you live in a state where qualified physicians are not available or not allowed to recommend cannabis, look online for naturopathic physicians or holistic nurses who may be open to recommending more alternative forms of medicine or herbalists who are well versed in plant medicine. Some nutritionists and other wellness professionals now offer cannabis consulting services.
Cannabis and CBD can interact with other medications, including both prescribed and those purchased over the counter. Stopping medications in favor of cannabis should not be a course of action without trusted, professional guidance, preferably from a physician or naturopath who is knowledgeable about cannabis.
Aliza Sherman lives in Anchorage, Alaska and has been involved in the cannabis industry since early 2016. She is the co-founder of Ellementa, an international network for women interested in cannabis for wellness. She is the author of a new book, “The Essential Guide to Cannabis and CBD: Optimizing Your Health With Nature’s Medicine” (Ten Speed Press). http://ellementa.com/cannabisbook