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5 Geriatric Disorders Cannabis Can Help Treat

The aging population in the United States is a fast-growing demographic. According to latest available statistics, there were 46.2 million seniors in the US as of 2014, from 44.7 million in the previous year. These individuals aged 65 and older accounted for as much as 14.5 percent of the entire American population. By 2060, it is estimated that the number of senior citizens will reach 98.2 million—and by then, 1 out of 4 US residents would be senior citizens.

The impact of this population trend is most significant in the healthcare industry, as senior citizens face increasing risk of diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. It is estimated that 2 out of 3 elderly Americans have such multiple chronic conditions, which require prescription medication and lifestyle management. Aging also brings about dramatic physical changes such as poorer vision, hearing impairment, slower reaction times, and decline in cognitive abilities. These, in turn, greatly affect one’s quality of life and well-being. 

Alternative Medical Treatments

With this impending healthcare challenge, aging patients themselves are seeking ways to manage their healthcare and lifestyle needs more effectively. This has led to increasing interest in alternative medical treatments such as medical marijuana or cannabis. Products such as cannabis oil for arthritis and many others are becoming extremely popular. With the recent legislation in 29 states in the US (including the District of Columbia) regarding the lawful purchase, possession, and use of marijuana for medical purposes, more and more people are discovering the herb’s health benefits and efficacy in treating various diseases.

The US now joins a growing list of countries around the world that have recognized marijuana or cannabis for its medicinal properties. These countries include Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Australia. Now, seniors comprise one of the growing segments of the population that are utilizing medical cannabis. As an alternative treatment, medical marijuana is highly preferred because it is more accessible and easier to incorporate into one’s daily lifestyle.

It is also seen as more sustainable because it has little to no negative side effects compared to traditional pharmacological treatments. Strong painkillers, for instance, are known to cause dependency or addiction. Over time, higher and higher doses of the medicine are required to treat the same condition. Marijuana, being a plant product, is also seen as generally safer. It can be cultivated organically to ensure that no harmful chemicals or substances enter one’s system.

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Marijuana for Geriatric Diseases

Medical cannabis has been hailed greatly for its reputation in addressing a host of different diseases and conditions. Geriatric or elderly patients, in particular, use medical marijuana to address and manage these top healthcare concerns:

  1. Arthritis
    Arthritis is a common complaint among the elderly, and it is quite debilitating because it restricts movement and constantly produces physical discomfort. Arthritis is mainly characterized by pain and inflammation in the joints of the fingers, wrists, knees, feet, and other areas. Those who have resorted to medical cannabis report that their levels of pain decreased significantly, which has led to an overall improvement in their daily living and disposition. This is because marijuana is actually an effective and fast-acting anti-inflammatory agent.
  2. Alzheimer’s
    Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition that affects many senior citizens, as well as their family members and caregivers due to the significant impact it has on lifestyle, physical health, and finances. The disease is generally thought to be caused by the presence of protein deposits in the brain, which leads to symptoms such as forgetfulness, mood swings, lack of physical coordination, and many others. The good news is that marijuana has been found to help slow down protein deposits in the brain and profoundly improve the behavior and well-being of Alzheimer’s patients.
     
  3. Depression
    Clinical depression is a mental disorder that people rarely think of as prevalent among senior citizens, but the fact is that it is. Many elderly people have to grapple with feelings of loneliness, rejection, failure, and other negative emotions due to the decline in their physical abilities. The great thing about medical marijuana is that it has positive effects not only on the body but on the mind as well. Medical cannabis users have reported better mood, less anxiety, improved sleep, and an overall sense of well-being.
     
  4. Glaucoma
    Glaucoma being a degenerative disease of the eye is common among those advancing in age. It is generally caused by increased pressure inside the eye, which affects and causes damage to the optic nerve. In turn, it causes vision loss or eventual blindness. In some studies, it was discovered that marijuana may help lower eye pressure and improve eye health. This is an important development because glaucoma is an irreversible condition, and any treatment that may potentially delay or halt it would be beneficial to millions of those afflicted with it.
  5. Cancer
    Malignancies are not particularly limited in occurrence among the elderly, but they are more difficult to manage when it occurs among them. Traditional modes of treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation are more risky, and may lead to more complications. Senior cancer patients have been turning to medical cannabis to help manage the many symptoms and discomforts brought about by chemotherapy, such as nausea, vomiting, pain, loss of appetite, and many others. Marijuana has not been studied extensively yet to determine its direct effects on cancer cells, but it holds a lot of potential in this aspect. At present, cannabis is utilized more towards palliative care and management of cancer symptoms to great success.

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Medical Marijuana and the Elderly

Among the many sectors of society that may benefit from the wonders of medical cannabis, senior citizens are perhaps the ones who stand to get the most. This is because their medical conditions are often more serious and their resources to manage their diseases are also more limited. Medical marijuana is a promising solution indeed to their situation, not just to add more years to their lives but to add more comfort and quality of living.