• Seniors use more and more cannabis
  • Seniors use more and more cannabis

Les aînés utilisent de plus en plus de cannabisÉtats-Unis

Publié le 7 août 2023 par AQIC

Part of the problem is that for many medications, we have a pretty clear idea of how they function. With cannabis, however, consisting of more than 100 cannabinoids and more than 400 other compounds, it is more complicated.

It often surprises people when I tell them that we have an endocannabinoid system. That means we humans have receptors for cannabinoids, and we even make cannabinoids ourselves. We are little cannabis-creating and -consuming creatures.

The purpose of the endocannabinoid system, according to esteemed Israeli researcher Dr. Dedi Meiri, is not to treat any particular ailment but rather to create balance in the body, known as homeostasis. It is when that homeostasis is lost, he says, that we become more susceptible to those nuisances of aging: sleep, pain, mood. As you probably surmised by now, as we get older, we make fewer of those cannabinoids, become deficient and increasingly lose the homeostasis. It is why Meiri recommended that his own mother use cannabis for her sleep issues.

Once again: a plant instead of pills. Perhaps the biggest change I have seen over the past 10 years is the face of cannabis. For me, it has always been Charlotte Figi, a sweet little girl who had so many seizures that her mom would just put her in the baby carrier, and feel her tremble all day long.

Nothing worked for her until one day, her mom, Paige, created a cannabis concoction in their kitchen sink, getting instructions off a YouTube video. Charlotte’s seizures went from more than 300 a week to practically none. I visited her over the Christmas holiday a couple years later, and she happily grabbed my hand and led me around a neighborhood party, something her family never imagined possible. Even though she sadly passed away a few years ago, Charlotte’s Web, a strain of cannabis created especially for her, still lives on.

Now, however, the face of cannabis also includes someone like “Mama Sue” Taylor. She’s a 75-year-old former Catholic high school teacher who was the one typically admonishing people for any sort of drug use at all. For her, cannabis had been no different than heroin or cocaine. But, like me, she started to dig into the research, talk to people and see its impact particularly on seniors.

She has now become an unlikely ambassador for cannabis across the United States, telling the first-hand stories of countless senior adults helped by cannabis and able to discontinue some of their other medications.

Mama Sue will acknowledge, like I do, that cannabis is not for everyone — and that there are risks. As cannabis use has increased among seniors, cannabis ER-related visits have gone up, too.

One of the biggest concerns is falls. Each year, 3 million seniors visit the emergency department due to falls, which can lead to a cascade of complications and often a terminal event. Cannabis could worsen those awful statistics.

Even Ken had a terrible episode one night, best described by him as a “bad trip.” He had committed the too-common error of “stacking”: Having taken an edible one evening and convinced it had no effect, he popped another one, effectively stacking one on top of the other. A couple hours later, he found himself clinging ferociously to the side of his bed, panicked and afraid to move.

He almost quit at that point, but with the help of Dr. Melanie Bone, who works in his senior living community, Ken was able to find a dose and strain that worked for him. It took trial and error, which is what many patients are left to do as a result of its Schedule I status.

At the end of our time together, Ken asked me if I would ever recommend cannabis for my own parents, who are in their late 70s; Ken referred to them as “kids.”

It was a fair question, and I immediately had funny visions of my teetotaler Indian mom, whom I have never seen have more than a sip of wine, sitting down and eating a gummy.

Of course, I would worry about falls and would want to make sure my parents had safeguards in place to protect against that. I would tell them it’s not a decision to be made lightly, and simply figuring out what strain and dose could be a bewildering experience. So the best advice is to “start low and go slow.”

I would want to make sure that they had excellent guidance like Bone had provided for Ken and that any signs of a cannabis use disorder could be detected early. But, in the end, there is no question that, especially for those nuisances of aging, cannabis could provide a relief they had been hard-pressed to find with the medications they were typically prescribed.

My answer to his question was “yes.”

And I guess that may be the biggest thing that has changed over the past 10 years. I would’ve never imagined a time when I would openly recommend cannabis to my own parents – or a time they would openly consider taking it.

“Why not? It can be a medicine, right?” my mom said when I raised the issue one day. My typically taciturn dad just smiled and nodded.

Cannabis can be a medicine, and like any other medication it should be held accountable for its risks and its rewards. It should be respected and made available, but also responsibly regulated. If all that is done well and safely, cannabis has the potential to help and heal so many people, young – and old.