Updated on January 30, 2019.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
You want the best for your parents, especially as they reach their senior years. Many health issues can arise with age, and sometimes, pharmaceuticals just don’t cut it. In some cases, they hurt patients more than they help them due to dependency, side effects and other risks. But, what if there were a safer alternative?
Although you and your parents may be surprised at first, medical marijuana has many benefits and can work just as effectively as standard medications and with fewer side effects.
Is Cannabis Safe for Seniors?
With marijuana’s negative connotation, you may worry it can cause some harmful effects, especially for seniors with more fragile health. But, cannabis actually works as a safer option than pharmaceuticals for many patients. Compared to drugs like opioids, marijuana causes milder side effects and risks.
As you can see, these symptoms are comparable to mild side effects caused by standard drugs. But unlike pharmaceuticals, you can easily change the type of marijuana strain you use or take it at a different time to eliminate or manage many of these side effects.
You and your parents may worry about marijuana medicine making them feel a high when they take it. Contrary to widespread belief, there are plenty of medicinal cannabis products that don’t make the patient feel high. Since the compound THC causes the high associated with cannabis, you can simply choose a marijuana strain that doesn’t include it to avoid the effect.
Barriers to Medical Marijuana Treatment
Just like with any other medication regimen, you and your parents should think about every aspect of medical marijuana treatment before deciding. The legal issues surrounding cannabis medicine can put up some barriers for folks interested in medicinal cannabis. But, if you can get around these issues, you can take advantage of the many advantages cannabis medication has to offer.
Since medical marijuana qualifications vary by state, you should consider your state’s medical cannabis laws before applying for a card. Some states that allow medical marijuana have a short list of conditions that qualify a patient, while others have longer ones. You may also have to pay an application fee when you apply for the medicinal cannabis program.
You and your parents should also think about your financial situation and whether you can afford regular medical marijuana purchases. Insurance companies don’t cover cannabis medicine, so you must pay full price for medical marijuana. Patients who can afford to pay for their medicine often find it worth the price, but not everyone has the money to afford it.
If you feel medicinal cannabis could work well to relieve your parents’ health issues, make sure to stress its efficacy when you bring up these barriers. After all, investing the research and money into cannabis medication is investing in your health and well-being.
How to Talk to Your Parents About Medicinal Cannabis
In some cases, you may think cannabis medicine could work well for your parents, but your folks aren’t as convinced due to common misconceptions of marijuana. Don’t give up right away — they might change their minds if they hear the truth about medicinal cannabis.
When you have a conversation with your parents about medical marijuana treatment, make sure to frame it like you would any other medicine. After all, cannabis medicine is still medicine, and it has benefits and side effects just like other pharmaceuticals. Approaching the talk this way can help your parents understand marijuana medication is a credible treatment option.
During your conversation, the following misconceptions could come up. You can use these facts to debunk common myths about medicinal cannabis:
“I don’t want to feel high/stoned.” Like we mentioned earlier, not all medical marijuana products make the patient high. Choose medicine without THC to avoid this side effect.
“Don’t I have to smoke marijuana?” Patients have plenty of options for ways to take their cannabis They can opt for more well-known methods like smoking or eating edibles, but they can also take cannabis in a pill or tincture. The kinds of medication patients can legally use varies by state.
If you worry about forgetting what you want to say or rambling when you talk to your parents, you can always print out this blog post or jot down some notes to reference during your conversation.
Next Steps to Take
So, you and your parents are all on board for trying medical marijuana treatment — fantastic!
Even if you live in a state that has legalized medical marijuana, you and your parents should consult with a marijuana-trained medical professional and join the state program. Having a medical cannabis card is the only way to legally get medicine in some states, and recreational states often offer bonus perks to program members. Sometimes, dispensaries offer perks for medical patients, as well.
To apply for your state’s medical marijuana program, the steps usually involve:
Visiting a doctor for an examination and approval to join the program.
Applying to the state for a medical marijuana card. If you want to be a caretaker for your parents, you can sign up during this step.
Waiting for approval. If the state approves you, you should get a medical marijuana card in the mail within a few weeks.