By Pam Chmiel, originally published in

Those in the 65+ age group are prime candidates to benefit from cannabis since it treats the symptoms they commonly seek relief from, like pain, anxiety, cancer, and degenerative conditions such as ALS, MS, and Parkinson’s disease.

But there are unique challenges in getting this group to buy into the medicinal or recreational benefits of cannabis, more so than other demographics.

The elderly tend to feel vulnerable, cautious, and hesitant to try cannabis since many take a daily concoction of prescription drugs. And for decades, they have heard that cannabis is a gateway drug and, most importantly, an illegal substance. How do we convince them that marijuana actually serves as an exit drug off harder substances and can help patients come off of prescription drugs and decrease alcohol abuse?

Physicians, like those working with CannaMD in Florida, are on a mission to educate and connect the elderly looking to explore and possibly seek treatment from a cannabinoid specialist. I spoke to Jessica Walters, Chief Medical Researcher at CannaMD, to get her insights into the elderly community and their mindset.

What are the top questions/concerns many ask when contacting CannaMD?

The primary concern is: “I want relief, but I don’t want to feel high.” This question presents a perfect opportunity for CannaMD physicians to educate patients on the different cannabinoids and their health and wellness benefits.

Most older adults take some sort of medication and are concerned about adding cannabis to their treatment plan, and rightly so. One particular point that I like to bring up is the mortality risk associated with standard classes of drugs like opioids. When you compare that to the risk profile of cannabis, there has never been a documented death from marijuana, right? Even the side effects of other drugs like benzodiazepines are more frightening.

If you look at cognitive function, research has shown time and time again that cannabis is neuroprotective. But the risk profiles for prescription drugs show that plenty of patients never return to their baseline cognitive function levels after long-term use.

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