News

Cannabis for eldsters

A cannabis dispensary in Colorado, just like where Teri Robnett secured employment. Photo: Jeffrey Beall
A cannabis dispensary in Colorado, just like where Teri Robnett secured employment. Photo: Jeffrey Beall

Not so long ago, cannabis was a young people’s thing. Now that medical marijuana has been legalised in most US states and also other countries (just not this one), we have cannabis for eldsters to manage such conditions as chemotherapy side effects or some kinds of pain.

There’s fibromyalgia for starters

Fibromyalgia often occurs in tandem with arthritis. Its precise cause is unknown, but it frequently crops up after physical trauma, including surgery and infection, or significant psychological stress. It results in widespread pain. A sufferer of 30 years’ standing is 59-year-old Teri Robnett of Colorado, who has been afflicted by anxiety, fatigue, insomnia and irritable bowel issues for all this time. She has tried virtually every conventional medical treatment there is, from ibuprofen to anti-depressants and opiod painkillers such as Oxycontin, but none did much good. Alternative treatments, including acupuncture, herbal medicines and massage, have been of some benefit.

In 2009, Robnett commenced employment at a marijuana dispensary. (In Amsterdam, you’d call it a coffee shop.) She had experimented with cannabis when she was considerably younger, but was no great fan. When she saw others using medical marijuana for conditions similar to hers, she joined in. Almost immediately, her reaction was “I feel so much better.”

Cannabis undoubtedly relieves pain, according to a professor of neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center

Pain relief is the most promising use of cannabis for eldsters that is supported by data, according to Margaret Haney, professor of neurobiology in psychiatry at New York’s Columbia University Medical Center, who undertakes research into cannabis. She’s convinced that cannabis reduces pain, one form of which doesn’t respond well to conventional drugs: neuropathic pain, which is caused by nerve damage and can occur due to chemotherapy, diabetes and HIV infection.

Mix it with opiods!

Professor Haney spoke of a study recently published by her organisation where a low dose of opiods in conjunction with cannabis produced “a nice effect,” with “nice” meaning “pain relieving.” Without the cannabis, the opiods did no good.

You aren’t eating? You need cannabis.

Cannabis for eldsters might also be advisable in cases of poor appetite and nausea, which can cause excessive weight loss or even malnutrition. Professor Haney believes it’s “certainly reasonable” to use cannabis for this.

You also might need cannabis if you have epilepsy

Epidiolex, a prescription drug based on cannabidiol, is currently being evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Studies have suggested it lessens seizures resulting from two forms of epilepsy.

People often resort to cannabis in response to anxiety; however, it makes things worse for many.

Things eldsters have to think about before trying cannabis

When it comes to cannabis for eldsters, it should be borne in mind that their bodies have, shall we say, evolved. Drugs are processed differently. Drug tolerance will have changed. Additionally, cannabis might interact with regular drugs, so it should be discussed with a doctor in advance. One major factor to be considered by eldsters using cannabis is the risk of falling.

As for Robnett, she’s now an advocate for medical marijuana, specifically an executive director of a charity, and co-owner of an establishment which conducts quality testing of medicinal cannabis products. She notes, “When traditional medicine gives up, cannabis gives people hope.”