What Seniors Should Know Before Trying Cannabis

Many senior citizens in Florida and around the U.S. are exploring how medical cannabis can help them, but older individuals need to take special considerations into account when considering these products. What are some of the common conditions faced by older Americans that can be helped with cannabis, and what do seniors need to know before trying cannabis products? 

 

Why might seniors consume cannabis?

Older adults often take several prescription medications, and many look into ways to cut back on the number of medicines they are taking. Cannabis can provide relief from many conditions seniors experience, chronic pain being chief among them. Researchers have observed that cannabinoids are particularly effective for helping with many types of pain, including arthritis and neuropathic pain. Chronic pain is the top condition for medical cannabis recommendations in Florida, and one of the top reasons for seeking medical cannabis in several other states. 

Similarly, cannabis is thought to support cognitive function. These neuroprotective properties make many cannabis products a good choice for seniors who want to support their mental wellness as they age.

These are just two examples of why seniors might try cannabis. Cannabis products could also help provide relief from:

  • Symptoms related to gastrointestinal disorders
  • Side effects of cancer treatment
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Symptoms related to anxiety and/or depression

So, as you can see, there is no single reason seniors try cannabis: Just like any other age group, they come to the plant for their own reasons. 

 

Older adults and medical cannabis product types

Seniors who have access to a dispensary can avail themselves to a wide selection of cannabis products. Many people think that cannabis must be smoked, but that is only one way to consume it. Today, adding cannabis to your routine is simpler than ever. 

Some cannabis products popular among seniors include:

  • Topicals: Cannabis topicals are excellent for localized relief from joint pain or who want to better manage skin conditions. They are also easy to apply; simply rub them in gently to the desired area until fully absorbed into the skin.
     
  • Rick Simpson Oil (RSO): RSO is an activated cannabis extract, which means it can be ingested directly or added as an ingredient into food or beverage. RSO is a highly discreet, potent, and easy way to consume cannabis. 
     
  • Edibles: Edibles are foods and drinks that are infused with cannabis. Unfortunately, though, not all edibles are compliant with a regulated diet, such as low sugar or low salt. There are sugar-free cannabis edibles available, though, making these easy-to-consume treats accessible to everybody. 
     
  • Capsules: Capsules are one of the easiest ways to consume cannabis, as easy as swallowing a pill. Seniors who don't want to deal with complicated or messy processes of smoking, vaporizing, or relying on oil can try capsules for long-lasting relief.

 

  • Tinctures: Tinctures are “biphasic,” which means part of a dose takes effect quickly through mouth membranes, and part of a dose is swallowed and processed like an edible. This makes them a good option for seniors who need fast and long-lasting relief from symptom flare-ups.

There’s no “right” or “wrong” cannabis product choice: it purely depending on the person’s needs. However, no matter which cannabis product they try, seniors should keep some important points in mind.

 

What seniors should know before trying cannabis

There are some special considerations seniors should keep in mind when trying cannabis. New consumers, especially, should be aware of these tips. But even seniors who used cannabis in the past should speak with their doctor and ask some important questions before incorporating cannabis into their routines. To get answers to the most common concerns, Trulieve spoke with Jessie Gill RN, cannabis nurse and director of the American Cannabis Nurses Association.

 

What do seniors need to be cautious of when trying cannabis?

Chief among seniors’ concerns should be other medications they might be taking. 

"Seniors are more likely to be prescribed more than one medication," Gill said. "Cannabis can interact with some medications. The more medications a person takes, the greater the risk of an interaction."

“Many seniors should also consider their physical abilities, such as balance when consuming cannabis,” Gill said. Since consumption can alter perception and impair motor function, seniors should be careful to remain seated during consumption and take caution when exercising or participating in other physical activities.

“Seniors are often more at risk of experiencing falls and should know that cannabis may affect their balance," Gill said. "They should use caution until they determine their proper dose and their body adjusts to the new medication."

Additionally, while the therapeutic potential of cannabis is immense, there remains a lot that researchers have yet to understand about the effects of the plant, Gill said. Consumers, especially new consumers, should always remain cautious and safe in how they consume cannabis.

"There’s a lot about cannabis we still don’t know,” she said. "With all substances, we are more concerned about the potential for side effects and adverse reactions."

 

Should seniors try smaller amounts of cannabis than younger people?

It is wise for seniors and consumers of all ages, especially new consumers, to always start with a very low dose of cannabis and gradually work their way up to the amount that is right for them. This is oftentimes a subjective level, dependent upon individual biology, tolerance, and personal goals – but starting low and going slow can never hurt, Gill said.

"Starting at a low dose and increasing the dose slowly is extremely important for all patients," she said. "It’s very easy to take too much. Too high a dose can cause a negative experience which can keep the person from ever trying cannabis again."

 

Should seniors on certain medications be wary when trying cannabis?

The answer, as mentioned above, is an absolute "yes." Seniors should always consult their doctor about how cannabis could react with any medication they are taking before trying cannabis. Gill reaffirmed that cannabis may interact with a variety of medications to cause unwanted effects or reduce the effectiveness of the medication. This is particularly important for diabetes or blood pressure medications.

"Cannabis often lowers blood sugar levels and can interact with diabetes medications,” Gill said. “Anyone with diabetes or hypoglycemia should carefully monitor their blood sugars when adding cannabis or changing the dose. 

"Cannabis can also affect blood pressure and may interact with some blood pressure medications," she added. "Anyone with blood pressure issues should monitor their pressure regularly when adding or changing their dose of cannabis."

It’s also possible that certain routes of administration, such as smoking a joint, may not be suitable for seniors with heart conditions or taking blood pressure medication. Consider the product type as well when planning medical cannabis routines.

 

Seniors and cannabis are a perfect pair

Cannabis is complex and researchers are constantly learning about how it can help, but what we do know is cannabis offers a way to address many of the challenges seniors face when it comes to supporting their health and wellness. And, luckily, the knowledgeable staff at Trulieve can help you navigate your options and choose the best products as recommended by your physician. 

If you're interested in how cannabis could improve quality of life, sign up today for a free online consultation with Trulieve. Select the location of your choice and click the Virtual Consultation link associated with that location. Visit our Virtual Consultation FAQs for more information.