Because cannabis is still federally illegal, many seniors are not aware that medical cannabis is a safe treatment alternative to pharmaceutical medications. However, with the steady stream of states legalizing medical cannabis, that is a changing trend. Here, in Illinois, many of the dispensaries and cannabis education groups are holding regular seminars geared towards senior. They are talking to seniors at nursing homes, assisted living communities and senior centers.
Since the average senior takes 3-4 different medications, the adverse side effects of these drugs can be very harmful. Medical cannabis has been proven to provide relief from the symptoms of many conditions associated with the elderly; Parkinson’s disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, agitation from Alzheimer’s disease, chronic joint and muscle pain, sleep disorders, glaucoma and spinal cord disease, just to name a few. Medical cannabis has very few side effects, if any. Some seniors are slowly able to wean themselves off all their pharmaceuticals and replace them with medical cannabis. Some use medical cannabis in conjunction with their medications.
The biggest misconception about medical cannabis is that you must smoke it and that it has mind altering properties. This could not be further from the truth. Some people choose to smoke it and some people use medical cannabis which contains both CBD and THC, the compound responsible for psychotropic effects. Many use cannabis that is high in CBD and low in THC. They experience no psychotropic effects, often described as “getting high or being stoned.” These days there are many alternative delivery methods for ingesting medical cannabis:
- Vaporizing or vaping for short. The dried cannabis is heated below the combustion point, so it is much less harsh than smoking it.The effects are instantaneous which allows you to control your dosing.
- Tinctures are infused liquids where an alcohol soak is used to extract the beneficial cannabis compounds; taken sublingually
- Topicals are cannabis-infused lotions and balms that are applied to the skin directly for localized relief of pain, soreness and inflammation.
- Edibles combine cannabis with food. This is a much more difficult way to control the dosing since it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to feel the effects.
- Ingestible oils are any concentrated form of cannabis taken orally; they come in capsules or plastic applicators.
- Transdermal patches contain cannabinoids compounds that are applied to the wrist, similar to nicotine patches
If you would like more information, there are many online and in-person educational options. The Midwest Compassion Center holds regular education seminars geared to seniors. The Illinois Medical Cannabis Community on Facebook is a great resource.