Cannabis treatments are designed for all ages, from children (mostly low-THC derivatives) to senior citizens. According to statistics from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, the latter group is currently getting more familiar and becoming more receptive to medicinal cannabis treatments.
In Washington state, cannabis usage in individuals over the age of 65 went up from 0.9 percent to 2.4 percent between 2011 and 2014.
The rise of extremely potent prescription opioids is mostly to blame for the development of this trend. Some elderly patients are concerned about the devastating effects of harmful opiates on the liver, digestive system and the mind (promoting depression and laziness).
Senior citizens have several choices to choose from when using cannabis to treat various medical conditions. For arthritis, which affects more than 50 million adults in the US, such individuals can utilize topicals and oils for direct, immediate relief. In most cases, this form of treatment has very limited cerebral effects on the patient. Cannabis with high THC content is suitable for senior citizens who are dealing with chronic pain and disruptive sleeping habits.
“A lot of these people think it’s just smoking a joint, but when they hear that there are non-smokable options, and more discreet, healthier, more convenient options, that’s something that really appeals to them,” explained Aron Swan, general manager of Silver State Relief in Sparks, Nevada.
Nowadays, with a plethora of strains available on the market, individuals can find options that closely matches their tolerance, personality and personal preference. According to Jacob Falconer, a professional budtender, senior citizens who are into medical cannabis prefer high CBD strains. Such variants are effective in addressing cognitive function, anxiety and chronic pain, without the “couch-locking” effects commonly associated with high THC strains.
Like new technology, adoption of medical cannabis in elderly groups is greatly hindered by lack of access and education. Most senior citizens have a reserved, conservative stance on cannabis, due to the prohibition era. As a result, they need to be updated about new laws and regulations surrounding cannabis products. This process is difficult for older demographics who are in nursing homes and aren’t comfortable with using modern devices, like mobile phones and smart TVs.
“The number one thing for seniors is being able to educate them,” said 55-year-old California resident Bob Leber. “There’s a huge educational process at the beginning, and this lowers their anxiety and their apprehension.”
To cater to the elderly, some medical dispensaries are changing the way they do business. In California, popular cannabis dispensaries, like Harborside Health Center establishments in Oakland and San Jose, offer discounts to their senior customers.
Other dispensaries are making their shops welcoming to elderly groups by adding amenities and designs that are more attractive to such individuals. For example, a clean, quiet facility helps make some older customers feel they’re in a medical clinic, as opposed to a recreational head shop filled with loud music and hazy decorations. Some medical cannabis establishments go even further by installing handicap spaces in parking lots, with attendants ready to assist patients as they arrive at the dispensary.