Cannabis and the Elderly

When you picture the average cannabis user, what do you imagine? Chances are you’re not imagining a senior citizen. Due to cannabis’ reputation as a counter-culture recreational drug, many people assume the average cannabis user to be young and liberal. While this seems like a reasonable assumption, the truth is that a large portion of medicinal cannabis patients are elderly. In fact, a recent Israeli study found that “of 279 cancer patients receiving medical cannabis, 50% were aged 60 or older”! In other words, perhaps the largest group of medicinal cannabis users is the senior citizen population. Why? Surely this percentage reflects the basic fact that older individuals are more likely to develop cancer and other diseases that may be treated by cannabinoids. Additionally, elderly populations are more likely to seek cannabis legally, while younger medical cannabis users are more likely to have other avenues of procurement. Moreover, perhaps the specific suite of ailments faced by the elderly fits the target profile of cannabis treatment. Regardless of the reason, however, the population of elderly medicinal users is far from negligible; at Cornerstone it makes up one of our major patient groups! In response to this high concentration of elderly medicinal cannabis use, one research group, led by Itay Katz from the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, has conducted a review of cannabis research relating to elderly populations. This review, published February 2017 in the Israel Medical Association Journal, highlights several common areas of use, as well as Western medicine’s current…

Avoiding Alzheimer’s

As people age their brains perform common tasks more efficiently, but also lose the opportunity for new growth and expansion. This is a normal and healthy part of brain development and is thought of as the “maturation” of the brain. In older age, brains continue to lose mass, which may be the medical basis behind becoming more forgetful or showing personality change (think of the stereotype of an ornery, older gentleman). However, when brain shrinkage is too rapid, the result is dementia. Dementia is a term that refers to a broad category of diseases that can impair an individual’s ability to think and reason clearly, to the point that it interferes with daily life and basic functioning. Since everyone’s brains naturally have different abilities and cognitive patterns, the diagnosis of this type of disease is based upon previous healthy functioning. One particular form of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, is especially common, affecting roughly 26 million people worldwide. Unfortunately, as common as the disease is, there is no cure for it. Symptoms also gradually progress to be more and more debilitating, ultimately leading to early death despite otherwise normal health. Some of the earliest symptoms, such as memory loss and inability to recognize loved ones, can be especially heart-breaking, although the truly life-threatening symptoms develop in end stages as the brain loses ability to regulate the body. As patients become less and less able to take care of themselves, with even basic matters such as using the restroom, they require increasing levels…