You may have seen the latest statistics or heard that seniors are the fastest growing group of medical marijuana users. It’s true, and I can speak from first-hand experience: medical marijuana is good for seniors.
Photo credit: SF Mag: Check out Barbara Blaser, reprinted from her featured story in San Francisco Magazine, 2017
According to a recent study by researchers at New York University School of Medicine, and the Center for Drug Use, 9% of the responding adults between fifty and sixty-four reported using marijuana. The rate in seniors sixty-five and over was reported to be about 3%. Since the Census Bureau reports there are over 47.8 million adults in the US, this means close to 1.5 million people over sixty-five used marijuana in 2015-2016. Similar data collected between 2005-2006 showed less than 4.5% of responding adults between 50-64 were using marijuana & only 0.4% of seniors reported using marijuana. This data indicates substantial changes in both age groups, as mirrored in the latest Gallop poll on legalization, released October 22, 2018:
Among Americans aged 55 and older, views that marijuana should be legalized now surpass the majority level, with 59% support, up from 50% last year.
I am Barbara Blaser, a 73-year-old who has been a registered nurse for over 50 years. I did not participate in either survey. Until 2015, I had never tried medical marijuana, as “it was not my thing.” I was worried about the stigma attached to marijuana use. After all, as a nursing professional, illicit drugs were forbidden, and even a whiff of weed could strip me of my license and destroy my authority. As a long-time Director of Nursing, providing care especially to mentally ill and hospice patients, this was an untenable outcome, as people’s lives depended on me.
Then, a serious, critical illness left me wheelchair bound, almost bald, physically and emotionally crippled with PTSD, chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia. Opioids left me terribly uncomfortable; I was itchy, cranky, and unable to participate in life, not to mention fearful of picking up an addictive prescription drug habit.
Photo: Barbara and Katie: Katie Rabinowitz, GM of Magnolia Wellness, teaching Blaser how to use the Firefly Vaporizer.
After extensive research on marijuana as medicine, I got a medical recommendation from a reputable doctor, and followed the advice start low and slow with an infused tincture. A couple drops under my tongue provided fast relief that lasted several hours. My daily dose was 10 milligrams, ingested right before bed.
I set out to learn more. I found that, depending on how quickly I needed relief, I could choose a fast acting tincture under my tongue that provided up to three hours of symptom management. I could decide to use an edible, a marijuana brownie or chocolate bar, that might take two hours to work, but would provide relief for up to seven hours. I learned that marijuana is not just for smoking; it can be eaten, used in a “vape pen,” or you can even drink it in a soda or infused juice. I found topicals, capsules and suppositories available at my favorite dispensary, and engaged budtenders who would guide me to the most effective products, as professionally as any medical staffer from my other life in the nursing profession. They taught me about THC and CBD and sativa versus indica, and how each worked to relieve pain and support sleep. I found that the right combination of THC to CBD, taken in the right dose, and using the right method, would take the edge off the worry of being so ill.
Honestly, it was all life changing, and I have wondered since why I let the fears created by anti-cannabis propaganda keep me away from use of medical cannabis for so long.
Photo: A few of the cannabis products Blaser recommends to patients at Magnolia Wellness.
Since starting to use medical marijuana, I have met more and more seniors looking for relief of symptoms that are often considered part of the aging process. Arthritis, depression, fatigue, dementia, muscle spasms, and glaucoma are just a few of the conditions helped by medical marijuana. I have also met seniors who smoked pot in the sixties, and now are returning to its use to regain that feel good sensation. Hurrah for them!
I have started to wonder about other seniors. Are they ready to try marijuana? Do they know how to get started?
Here are some valuable tips:
Ask your treating physician about marijuana but remember, they may know little about marijuana, and, may indeed, have a bias against it.
Educate yourself! Many bookstores carry marijuana magazines and books. The internet has a wealth of information. Talk to friends, like Ibudtender, on Facebook to learn more.
Visit a dispensary. Meet with dispensary staff and ask questions. Check if they have a nurse on staff or any classes or programs for new users.
Ready to feel better? Forget stigma. Have a brownie, and enjoy life. You deserve it.