Updated on September 10, 2018.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Our senior years involve plenty of precious memories — and, unfortunately, plenty of pills to take in many situations. So, it’s no wonder that more people are looking into medical marijuana as a replacement for prescription drugs for the elderly. You might have a hard time associating cannabis medicine with the elderly, but it suits older people better than you may think. Read on for 10 reasons why seniors should consider supplementing or replacing their prescription drugs with medical marijuana.
1. Replaces Harmful Opioids
The United States has a serious problem with prescription drugs, and the elderly take the brunt of it. Over half of all prescriptions for opioids, the drug at the forefront of an addiction crisis, go to seniors. This reliance on opioids results in a high number of older people facing addiction and overdose. Even when using non-opioid prescriptions, seniors who take strong pharmaceuticals could face some serious dangers. Cannabis medicine works as a safe replacement with no risk of overdose.
2. Less Dangerous Side Effects
Every medication will have side effects, but some cause more harm than others. Some prescriptions can cause side effects like organ damage and addiction. Medical marijuana has side effects, too, but they don’t result in long-term damage and often go away with a dosage adjustment.
3. Addresses Conditions Common Among Seniors
Even some of the healthiest people begin to deal with chronic conditions as they age. As we get older, we become more susceptible to health problems, some of which cause difficult-to-manage symptoms. Fortunately, evidence shows that cannabis medicine can relieve health issues related to:
You deserve to live comfortably regardless of age. Medicinal cannabis addresses troublesome symptoms that get in the way of celebrating this important part of your life.
4. Easy-to-Adjust Doses and Medications
Seniors often have limited choices of prescription medications for their illnesses. The medicine available to you depends on your insurance, your doctor and your tolerance for certain side effects. If nothing works for you, you’re out of luck. Plus, when you change or discontinue some medications, you have to taper off or on your dosage before making the switch. Medical marijuana comes in a variety of formulations and dosages you can easily try out without worrying about selection or withdrawal effects.
5. Multi-Symptom Relief in One Plant
Whether you have one medical condition or many, it can take multiple prescription medications to address all your symptoms. Managing multiple kinds of medicine racks up costs and increases pharmacy visits. When you get a medical marijuana recommendation, you can use your natural medicine to handle more than one symptom at once. One stop at the dispensary lets you get a single solution for many of your health problems.
6. A Veritable Medicine Cabinet of Options
Prescriptions generally only come in a few forms, if they provide any alternative options at all. You can only take some drugs in pill form, for example, or get them as a shot. Meanwhile, medicinal marijuana producers infuse cannabinoids into all sorts of items. Get your medicine as an oil to add to food, or buy food that already has cannabis in it. Patients who prefer a more familiar experience can still find capsules and tinctures containing marijuana medicine.
7. Potentially More Cost-Effective
The average prescription cost for the elderly goes up every year. Uninsured seniors have to pay for their medications’ full price out of pocket. And even with insurance, copays can still require large payments. While no health insurance covers medicinal marijuana, the money you pay for it could be less than what you would pay for the pharmaceutical equivalent. Certain dispensaries even have sliding scale programs that let low-income patients get cost reductions.
8. Plenty of Accessible Delivery Methods
Depending on where you live, you could have access to medical marijuana in forms that make it simpler for seniors with disabilities to medicate. Not everyone can take a pill, use a topical or get a shot easily. Since you can find medical marijuana in so many types of medication, you can choose something that works with your abilities. For example, edibles and oils provide a less intimidating medicating experience for patients with dementia who become alarmed by pills.
9. A Treatment Experience Where You’re a Person, Not a Patient
Medicinal cannabis doesn’t just offer an alternative medicine — it also involves a compassionate healthcare experience. Standard medical care can have hit-or-miss experiences where some professionals only treat you as your diagnosis. But, this kind of healthcare doesn’t account for everyone’s unique body, lifestyle and preferences. Marijuana-trained doctors and dispensary budtenders keep every aspect of your life in mind. Many dispensaries have one-on-one consultations that give patients the time and attention they need. The flexibility of cannabis medicine also lets you change your treatment according to your circumstances.
10. Easily Integrated Into Palliative Care
Near the end of their lives, seniors often enter hospice or palliative care programs. Patients who prefer an experience centered around their personal needs and happiness often go into palliative care. The palliative care experience includes a multidisciplinary team that creates an individualized treatment plan focused on making the patient as comfortable as possible. This philosophy goes hand-in-hand with the approach taken by medicinal cannabis professionals, making them work together wonderfully.
Begin Your Medical Marijuana Treatment Today
Seniors who replace or supplement their prescriptions with medicinal cannabis get to avoid the drawbacks of pharmaceuticals while enjoying the benefits of a natural alternative. You or your loved one can follow these steps to start medicinal cannabis treatment:
Research your state’s medicinal cannabis laws. Every state has its own laws regarding qualifying conditions, possession limits and other aspects of the medical marijuana program. Even if your state allows recreational use, you can still benefit from the support offered to qualifying patients.
Get a basic understanding of how medical marijuana can relieve your symptoms. Your doctor and budtender will help you figure out the best route to take in your treatment, but having general knowledge lets you control the discussion. Feel free to read our condition guides to see how you can take advantage of cannabis medicine.