People may associate marijuana with a younger crowd, but more and more seniors are turning to the cannabis plant to help ease pain associated with conditions such as glaucoma, dementia and arthritis. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, between 2006 and 2013, the number of Americans 65 and older who consume marijuana went up 250%.
It’s understandable that people are turning away from intense pharmaceuticals with harmful side effects, but can cannabis really help with conditions we face later in life? Here are three popular Q&As from our Answers page detailing how cannabis may be able to help with conditions like glaucoma, arthritis and dementia. If you have a question about a senior condition, post it on our website and someone from our knowledgeable community will be able to point you in the right direction.
Q. Is marijuana the best treatment for glaucoma or are the traditional meds far superior at this point?
_ My friend still smokes several times a day for his glaucoma, but from my understanding the pharma drugs are actually better for this than marijuana at this point. He is anti-pill and likes his weed. We argued about this last week and I want a doctor's opinion so we know who is right._
Answer: @dredmunds Traditional medications are well-established for the treatment of glaucoma. It is important that you determine a target intraocular pressure with your ophthalmologist and then be followed closely. First line therapy is typically pharmacologic or laser therapy (not surgery). If pharmacologic therapy is chosen one current recommendation is topical prostaglandin. If mono therapy is not sufficient, another topical (beta blocker) may be added.
From what we know, I would consider marijuana to be a complimentary or supplemental therapy to your medication; and this decision should be arrived upon with the guidance of your ophthalmologist. Cannabis does decrease intraocular pressure, and it also has neuroprotective properties, so it may be helpful in the treatment and prevention of progression in glaucoma.
Q. CBD for motor problems in dementia?
I have read this: (I copied and pasted the quote below) “To treat movement problems (Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s, dementia): 3 to 5 mg of cannabidiol (CBD) oil per pounds of body weight daily. If you weigh 150 lbs, that would be 450 to 750 mg daily.”
Do you know anything about this? My mother has dementia and is losing the ability to walk. I give her about 200 mg of CBD and it works fantastic for her agitation and anxiety, but she walks even less now. Should increase the dose? any suggestion?
Answer: @drelkind You do not say where that quote comes from and I want to be clear that there is no medical literature defining CBD doses for ANYTHING. CBD is remarkably benign in the human body and there are essentially no reports of toxicity, but at the same time there is no body of clinical studies defining a dosage range for any condition. Most reports of using CBD for various conditions are basically anecdotal, and the kind of dose-response information you are seeking is still folk medicine, not based on medical science. It is also not clear to me what other factors might be affecting you mother's ambulation, so the best I can suggest is that increasing the CBD dose is unlikely to cause any adverse effects and if the lack of walking is from CBD related sedation her response will likely be to walk less. If it helps, then I would not be concerned about a modest increase in dose unless other symptoms appear.
What is the best strain to treat arthritis and stay somewhat lucid? I have bad osteoarthritis (OA) and an intense, fast-paced job. Thanks in advance!
Answer: @chearpear I would recommend a high-CBD strain like Harle-Tzu. It has great anti-inflammatory characteristics. A topical with this type of strain plus ingredients like peppermint, lavender, arnica, and emu oil all help to decrease inflammation and pain. You don't need a product high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). You need a product that focuses on the inflammation. Also, a change in diet is vital. Look into an anti-inflammatory diet which eliminates red meat, sugar, wheat and dairy. Eat simple, organic foods that heal and support, and don’t cause inflammation.
Photo credit: Elena Saharova