Is Cannabis a Safe Pain Medication for Seniors?

Q+A: How Can Marijuana be a Safe Pain Medicine for Seniors?

Answer: Grandma’s not alone. Marijuana use is booming among the baby boomer generation. According to one demographic analysis, consumption of marijuana by Americans 65 and older increased by 250 percent between 2006 and 2013.

Summary: One reason for marijuana’s popularity among the senior set is that it can reduce the need for opioid painkillers. In May 2018, Northwell Health, a New York-based health-care network surveyed older adults who were using medical marijuana for chronic pain. Patients reported that after a month of cannabis consumption, their pain dropped, on average, from a searing 9 on a pain scale of zero-to-10 to a more manageable 5.6. As a result, two in three of these marijuana users were able to reduce or completely eliminate their use of other painkillers. Bottom line: More than nine in 10 of those respondents said they would recommend medical marijuana to others, the Northwell survey found.

You need to be aware that marijuana may slow down or speed up the metabolism rate of other medications someone is taking. A doctor and pharmacist can offer guidance on that. And if someone is already on an opioid for pain, you need to be very careful about throwing cannabis into the mix and rigorous about managing the combined mind-altering effects. Patients also need medical supervision in tapering off or eliminating the use of opioids.

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