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Cannabis for seniors? Research finds medicinal cannabis improves quality of life in old age

by | Mar 15, 2021

Living a long and prosperous life is a wonderful gift not to be taken for granted.

But we all know that the aging process can be a bumpy ride.

The body stops performing as well as it used to. The mind starts playing tricks on us. Health issues, visits to the doctor, and a cabinet full of prescription drugs become the new normal.

The Chinese philosopher Confucius once said: “A healthy man wants 1000 things, a sick man only wants one.”

That one thing is health.

But as health starts to deteriorate in older age, the priority often shifts to quality of life.

Recent studies have found that senior citizens who use cannabis medicinally report having significantly better quality of life.

This indicates that medicinal cannabis can help some older people to enjoy their golden years more than their peers.

As the stigma around medical cannabis lifts and the plant’s potential health benefits become more widely accepted, it’s only natural that more elderly people will use cannabis-based medicines.


Improving quality of life

A 2018 study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine looked at quality of life outcomes for elderly people using medical cannabis.

During the study period, 2736 patients aged over 65 began cannabis treatment through a specialised clinic.

The most common reasons for undergoing treatment were pain and cancer.

At the beginning, 79.3% of patients defined their quality of life as either bad or very bad.

After six months of treatment with medicinal cannabis, 58.6% said their quality of life was either good or very good.

Additionally, 93.7% of patients reported that their health condition had improved and 41.9% said it had significantly improved.

“The older population is a large and growing part of medical cannabis users. Our study finds that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and efficacious in this population.”

The study also found that 18.1% of patients either stopped using opioid painkillers, or reduced their dose following treatment with medical cannabis.


The more cannabis, the better?

Medicinal Cannabis Improves Quality of Life in Old Age

A study from the University of Iowa looked at health-related quality of life outcomes among older medical cannabis users in Chicago and Illinois.

The study was based on data collected from anonymous surveys collected from 139 people over the age of 60.

Close to two-thirds of the participants had been diagnosed with a pain-related condition or cancer-associated pain.

The study found that using medicinal cannabis was strongly associated with improved quality of life and pain symptoms.

“Strong positive associations between frequency of cannabis use and improvements to both quality of life and pain symptoms were observed.”

It also found that people who used cannabis frequently (5-7 times per week) reported higher quality of life scores and reduced pain symptoms than those who used it 1-4 times a week.

In response to the study, NORML deputy director Paul Armentano said the results are “hardly surprising”.

“Many seniors are well aware of the litany of serious adverse side-effects associated with available prescription drugs, like opioids, and they perceive medical cannabis to be a viable alternative.”

The authors say that, given the respondents are active cannabis users, it’s more likely they have a positive opinion of cannabis use and its potential as a therapeutic.

Therefore, it’s possible some respondents may have overstated the positive effects.

The study nonetheless highlights an interesting link between medical cannabis use and self-reported quality of life.


Enjoying life in later years

As the world’s population continues to get older, there are going to be more people experiencing health issues that impact on their quality of life.

Medicinal cannabis certainly is not a miracle drug that’s going to make life better for all older people.

But research is finding that it can be effective for managing the pain and discomfort associated with common health conditions in old age.

We can’t stop the aging process, but medical cannabis might help to make it more enjoyable.

If you think medicinal cannabis might be helpful for your parents or grandparents, but you’re not sure how to talk to them about it, check out our helpful guide.

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