BY RUTH HILL R.N.
The media airing of cannabis articles and videos still emphasize the dangers as if cannabis is similar to cocaine. But Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us a different story when CNN aired Weed 7 A Senior Moment Sunday, August 7th with Anderson Cooper. Dr. Gupta first aired “Weed” Part 1 on CNN, on August 11, 2013. All of his Weed documentaries can be seen on YouTube. Weed 7 can be seen on CNN Demand.
Cannabis use in seniors over 65 jumped 75%, and this age group now represents the fastest-growing group of cannabis users in the United States. Pilot program experiments on cannabis treatment, are occurring across the country as seniors are using the drug for pain relief, better sleep, less anxiety, weight gain, and more.
In California, “Cannabus” tours provide transport to seniors who cannot otherwise access dispensaries. These bus tours allow seniors to visit one of the largest cannabis-growing operations in the world, Coachillin Business Park in Desert Hot Springs, where plants are designed with seniors in mind. Canndescent, a cannabis cultivation facility, in Desert Hot Springs takes people through different cultivation rooms, showing the progression of growth. Canndescent produces premium blunts for every need.
Increased use among seniors comes with unintended consequences when experimentation goes array. A recent study published in January 2023 by UC San Diego Health found emergency department visits increased sharply to 3 million visits between 2013 and 2017. Those visits were mostly due to falls which is a serious consequence of high THC. ER visits leveled off in 2017 after the implementation of Proposition 64. The availability of recreational cannabis does not appear to correlate with a higher rate of cannabis-related emergency department visits among older adults.
Comparing cannabis to alcohol causes confusion because the unintended consequences are not as intense or severe. Primary care physicians who attempt discussions with seniors instill fear and emphasize the side effects of addiction. Screening questionnaires lump cannabis with cocaine and methamphetamine which leads patients to remain silent about consumption. Cannabis research is based on the science of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Medical personnel do not acquire or wish to be knowledgeable about the ECS.
Seniors must become their own advocates. Ask your medical provider if she/he knows a specialist in cannabis. Most physicians no longer prescribe anxiolytics, opioids, or sleep medications, leaving the patient to suffer debilitating symptoms. This forces seniors to try cannabis without medical oversight. One too-common error of “stacking” or taking an edible one evening, convinced it had no effect, then taking another one, effectively stacking one on top of the other. A couple of hours later, the senior finds herself clinging ferociously to the side of the bed, panicked and afraid to move.
Most quit at this point, but with the help of a cannabis specialist, the person will be able to find a dose and strain that works. It takes trial and error, which many patients are left to do as a result of its Schedule I status. A strong dissonance exists in California in regard to cannabis. While CA has the longest history of medical legalization, the best-grown cannabis in the country, and the easiest medical recommendation process, there exists a resistance to education by the medical establishment.
There are very specific education pearls that the ER personnel can impart to seniors. Unfortunately, hospitals besmirch any education on cannabis. When yours truly tries to get into a clinic, hospital, home health, or hospice facility in Coachella Valley the door is slammed in my face. “It’s illegal!” Hospitals and other medical institutions ignore laws passed by the CA legislature allowing cannabis for terminal patients. Federal legislation will not change this ignorance nor reduce ER visits.
The majority of seniors can navigate the maze of products with budtenders at the dispensaries, but most give up the journey. Hopefully, seniors will continue to experiment with this miracle plant as more social workers, and nurses become expert trainers and advocates.
For my Cannabis Education, Dosing Without the High on the 1st Saturday of the Month from 11 AM to 1 PM at the Vault Dispensary Lounge.
Register Here: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/ruth-hill-61405066533
We are dark in September.
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