Hypertension impacts about one in every three American adults, or about 68 million people. It can especially become an issue as people age into their senior years. It’s one of the many areas where medical cannabis can help the elderly.
More research is needed on cannabis treatment for medical conditions, and people should also consult with a physician before using cannabis for health and wellness benefits. But preliminary studies show a great deal of promise in using cannabis for many different conditions.
The latest estimates put the number of Americans 65 and older who use cannabis at about 3.3 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Times reports that there’s even a free shuttle service that takes seniors every month from the a retirement community in Orange County to a dispensary in Santa Ana where they receive “a free lunch, cannabis education seminars and brand presentations and a healthy discount at checkout.”
It’s another sign of the growing popularity of cannabis among the nation’s growing population of seniors.
Ways Cannabis Can Help the Elderly
Seniors use medical cannabis for many of the same reasons as everyone else. They include a better sense of wellbeing, relaxation and managing aches and pains. The following lists some of the specific reasons seniors are using cannabis in larger numbers.
Managing Blood Pressure
A 2021 study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine found that using cannabis lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure for people in their 60s with hypertension. The study found that using cannabis regularly for three months led to a five-point drop in systolic pressure (the higher number in a blood pressure reading) and a 4.5-point drop in diastolic pressure (the lower number). The drop seemed the biggest about three hours after the use of cannabis.
The researchers reported that the improvement occurred whether patients smoked cannabis or used cannabis oil. They also theorize that the reason for the blood pressure drop is connected with weed’s effectiveness in helping people manage pain.
Seniors most often cite pain management as the main reasons they have an interest in using medical cannabis. This includes seniors who suffer from back pain, a common problem as people age, as well as those who suffer from migraines and other aches and pains. Many studies have associated cannabis use with reducing pain among a wide variety of patient populations, including seniors.
Studies have also shown that cannabis can help reduce inflammation that is often associated with pain and other issues. Chronic inflammation is linked to a variety of health problems. Cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce inflammation and improve overall health.
Less Anxiety, Better Sleep
Older age can bring a wealth of anxieties and concerns to people about money, health and family issues. Studies have associated cannabis with higher levels of relaxation, reducing feelings of anxiety and leading to a better night’s sleep. Seniors frequently experience sleep disturbances, and for some cannabis may improve sleep quality and duration. It can also help seniors fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and wake up feeling more rested.
Reduced Use of Pharmaceuticals
Connected with all of these uses of cannabis is the fact that many seniors want to cut down on their use of pharmaceuticals, especially pain medication. Many seniors take multiple medications that can lead to side effects. Cannabis offers a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals for managing pain, anxiety and other conditions.
A Word of Caution for Seniors Using Cannabis
A recent study in California found a huge spike in the number of seniors showing up in the emergency room with cannabis-associated issues. Most of the time, they simply used too much cannabis and felt impaired in their motor abilities.
The study also noted that the increase seemed to level off after California legalized adult-use marijuana, so the study did not correlate legalization with more emergency room visits for seniors.
That said, it did highlight the issue that seniors should have as much information about cannabis and its effects before using it. This is especially important with edibles because seniors might not feel the effects right away and consume more than they should. It’s important to get factual information about cannabis and consult with a physician before using it for health and wellness purposes.