Is Marijuana Safe for Older Adults?
Is Marijuana Safe for Older Adults? Staff

According to a 2020 study, more and more older adults aged 65 and up are using marijuana in the US. Most of them use it for medical reasons, while others just want to use it for recreation.

Marijuana contains two main chemical components responsible for this surge. First, is cannabidiol, also known as CBD, a chemical found believed to be anti-inflammatory, and the other is tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, a chemical responsible for the “high” feeling.

Although marijuana does have medical properties, the question remains: is it safe for older adults?

Cannabis Legalization and CBD Products

Marijuana is now legal in 15 states, but its federally illegal status in the US is maintained. This means that you can still get arrested if you travel in possession of legal marijuana amounts from one state where it’s legalized to another where it’s not.

Even CBD products low in THC are in the gray area. States like Idaho and Nebraska still classify CBD oil as a Schedule 1 substance, similar to marijuana. In contrast, CBD oil legalization in California and New York CBD Laws permit a more independent use.

CBD products come in the form of oils, tinctures, and edibles. Tinctures are created by infusing alcohol with cannabis. In contrast, oils are produced by suspending CBD in a carrier oil such as coconut oil.

Edible CBD can be capsules or gummy bears with varying dosages. They can be marketed as vitamins or sleep supplements, especially to older adults who dislike the high that comes with THC.

It’s generally advisable that older people avoid high levels of THC (or any THC at all) if they only want to reduce pain from chronic illnesses. THC overwhelms the endocannabinoid system as it instantly binds to cannabinoid receptors throughout the body and brain.

This interferes with their body’s natural cannabinoids as it communicates between neurons, throwing the entire system off balance. Effects generally include delayed reaction time, memory loss, added anxiety, addiction, and impaired judgment.

How Do Marijuana Products Work?

Now that you know the legal aspects of marijuana and its products let’s look at how marijuana products can affect its users.

Cannabis can lead to mental health challenges

Using cannabis in raw form or high-THC products to cope with mental health issues may worsen them.

Cannabis dependence can result from regular use, making it difficult to stop using. Withdrawal can elicit unpleasant emotions such as irritability, anxiety, stomach pains, sleeping difficulties, loss of appetite, and excessive sweating.

Using cannabis also increases older people’s chances of developing schizophrenia, psychosis, and other hereditary mental illness.

Cannabis affects how your brain works

THC affects several brain regions, making you think, feel, and act differently. Depending on the amount of THC and how the cannabis was taken, these effects can last up to 12 hours.

The elderly are also more susceptive to mental illnesses if they’ve regularly consumed cannabis or high-THC products in their youth. When cannabis is consumed frequently at a young age, THC alters how the brain develops and functions, leaving them with permanent damage even after quitting.

Advice for older adults in marijuana

Generally, older patients who avoid high-THC doses appear to be doing well when consuming cannabis. Therefore, older adults looking to use marijuana should look for versions with a higher CBD component since it doesn’t have the mentally incapacitating and addictive effects of THC.

CBD is safer and has been demonstrated to be beneficial as an anti-inflammatory for arthritis in young individuals. It also appears to be useful for several other types of pain.

Marijuana can also interfere with other maintenance drugs that older people regularly take. Hence, it’s better if they consult with their doctors first. They should also divulge all mental and physical symptoms that they feel since certain illnesses can be worsened by cannabis intake.

Older patients who want to try marijuana are also advised to consume very little at first and be cautious. They can then gradually increase the dosage with their doctor’s guidance if they feel more comfortable.

So, Is Marijuana Safe for Older Adults?

Although it is undeniable that marijuana, especially in its CBD form, does have its benefits, there are still numerous factors to consider should older adults want to take marijuana.

It is critical to discuss with their doctor the safety risks, especially if they have heart issues, take different maintenance drugs, or experiencing mental and physical changes due to age. They should also educate themselves as much as possible before consuming cannabis.

Additionally, remember that most of the negative effects associated with cannabis use are dose-related, so it is critical to understand the strength of the marijuana they are using.

Try starting with the lowest effective dose and gradually work their way up to an amount that removes their pain with the fewest side effects.

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