The debate over the pros and cons about the uses of marijuana, be it medical or recreational, has been on-going for a long time, and despite recent laws that have established medical marijuana as a legal activity in many states within the United States, Federal legislation has attempted to reverse this decision and enforce Federal laws pertaining to marijuana and its otherwise illegal position on the legislative stage.
However, that doesn’t seem to be stopping many seniors.
With increased studies pertaining to the effects and medical properties of marijuana, an increased number of senior citizens seem to have decided to partake of the once- and still-controversial cannabis, often supplementing prescription medication or even foregoing prescriptions whenever possible. In a seven-year span between 2006 and 2013, statistics had shown that the number of senior citizens who used marijuana for medical purposes had more than doubled, and other statistics suggest this number may still be on the rise.
Over half of all surveyed Americans over the age of 65 had reported pain of a considerable measure, reported a government survey. Whether this pain stems from arthritis or nerve damage resulting from diabetes or even long-standing injury, the trend seems to be shifting to the same place. More seniors are using marijuana.
At its base level, marijuana seems to provide a slew of health benefits, many of which seniors find to be a boon to their own health. While marijuana fights chronic pain without the inherent risk of addiction and overdose as many opioids on the pharmaceutical market, it has also been known to provide more of an overall health benefit. Documents have shown that the laughter for which marijuana may be famously known to cause in many users, whether recreational or medical, has been known to counter symptoms of depression. The general effects of laughter have shown to reduce stress levels, improve function of the immune system and even provide protection to the heart among other effects. Some speculate that the social nature of marijuana may also promote stronger bonds with others as a result of its use, effectively increasing the life span as well as the overall quality of life among the elderly who use marijuana.
Beyond this, others have also found advantages in the versatility of form marijuana can take and be ingested or consumed, providing a greater ease of use along with what seems to be a safer alternative to addiction-causing prescription medication. Apart from the tried-and-true method of smoking marijuana, companies have manufactured it into candy, and the famed “pot brownies” and other baked goods apparently make for easy and eager consumption.
But there are those who still remain concerned. While studies have revealed a great deal regarding the medical impact that marijuana can have on the human body, the attached stigma of slowed reaction time and reduced balance is still a point of worry – particularly in elderly patients who are at a much greater natural risk of falling and, with weaker frames, more prone to life-threatening injury. Says Dr. Lynn Webster, “I wish we had the science to understand who [marijuana] would help and in what doses, and for whom it would be toxic.”
Despite political pressure that doctors face in continuously prescribing opioid medications, seemingly-inconclusive evidence and the challenge of maintaining state law against Federal law are still two major obstacles for advocates of medical marijuana, beyond the challenges of overcoming the stigma that remains attached to marijuana as a whole.