The Definitive Cannabis Guide For Seniors


Remember that conversation your parents had with you about alcohol? “Don’t drink too much,” they said. “Call us anytime for advice or if you need help,” they said. Well, how many of your parents have had that exact same conversation with you about cannabis in the past year? “Don’t do too much,” you said to them. “Call me anytime for advice or if you need help,” you said. It’s amazing how the tables have turned since the legalization of marijuana in Canada, eh?

According to an October 2019 Statistics Canada report, seniors are the age group showing the most growth in cannabis usage across the country. In fact, it’s estimated that in 2012 about 40,000 people over the age of 65 tried cannabis. In 2019 that number has jumped to 400,000! And more than one-quarter of them are new users. But just like young people experimenting with alcohol for the first time, there are important things our parents and grandparents need to know about marijuana. This definitive cannabis guide for the elderly will explain all that. (Note: In this article, we will deal specifically with consumables that contain THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. We’ll address Cannabidiol or CBD, marijuana’s non-psychoactive compound in another article.)

 

What Is Cannabis And How Does It Work?

Cannabis is called many things including weed, pot, marijuana, herb and ganja, but it all refers to a genus of flowering plant that originated in Central Asia but is now grown in almost every country in the world. There are various strains of the plant, including hemp which has been used to make clothing and rope for over 10,000 years. However, for the purposes of this article, we will concentrate on the strains that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an intoxicating compound that affects the brain and the body. (Hemp has less than 0.03 percent THC, according to Health Canada, and so is not consumed.) Strains such as Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica are popular medicinal and recreational drugs around the planet because the THC within them has psychoactive effects, commonly summarized as being “high” or “stoned.” Effects include relaxation, euphoria, as well as an increased facility for philosophical thinking and introspection. Consumption of the plant is also known to curb anxiety and increase appetite, which are just some of the reasons it’s subscribed as medicine. Many other medicinal usages are described below.

Is Cannabis Legal?

Yes. On October 17, 2018, the federal government of Canada legalized recreational marijuana. Medicinal marijuana has been legal in this country since 2001 but it was only last year that the federal government decreed that those over the age of 19 are allowed to put any strain of cannabis in our pipes and smoke it too. On October 17, 2019, marijuana edibles (food infused with cannabis) became legal in Canada too.

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What Does It Feel Like After Consuming Cannabis?

THC, the intoxicating compound in cannabis, affects people differently because everyone has a unique metabolism. The “high” you get from marijuana also depends on what type of cannabis strain you consume and how you consume it. For example, a small gummy candy infused with marijuana may look innocuous but if it contains 80mg of THC from a Cannabis Indica plant, there’s every chance you’ll be relegated to your couch for a few hours lost in your entertaining thoughts. On the flip side, if you take a puff of a joint rolled with bud from a Cannabis Sativa strain that only has 16% THC, you’ll be talkative and animated at a dinner party. CBD products have no intoxicating effect and we’ll discuss those in another article.

 

Why Are Seniors Turning To Cannabis? 

As mentioned above, Canadians over the age of 65 are the fastest-growing sector of cannabis users in the country. There are many reasons for this but the main one is medical. Yes, there are those who are experimenting with cannabis on a recreational level because, well, it’s fun! And unlike alcohol, you don’t suffer a hangover afterwards. But as a whole, most seniors are turning to cannabis as a treatment for various ailments and medical conditions and as an alternative to harmful pharmaceuticals. According to the Canadian Research Network for Care in the Community, there is evidence that cannabis is effective in:

  • • treating chronic pain
  • • treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
  • • improving multiple sclerosis and painful muscle spasms
  • • improving epilepsy
  • • treating insomnia and short-term sleep outcomes in individuals suffering such ailments as obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and fibromyalgia

What Are Doctors Prescribing Cannabis For? 

 

Aside from the examples listed above including chronic pain, nausea, sleep deprivation and seizures, Canadian doctors also prescribe cannabis for a number of other ailments. If you are currently taking some form of medication, it’s important you consult with your doctor before trying cannabis to ensure safety. For example, cannabis can have a short-term effect on blood pressure, slightly rising it shortly after consumption, followed by a bit of a decline. If you are on blood pressure medication, it’s imperative you ask your doctor before imbibing weed. That said, there is absolutely no risk of heart attack or stroke from cannabis consumption as proven by a study conducted by the UC San Francisco School of Medicine. Here are other ailments cannabis is prescribed for:

 

  • • Anxiety 
  • • Appetite stimulation
  • • Stress
  • • Parkinson’s disease
  • • Arthritis
  • • Multiple sclerosis
  • • Nausea
  • • Seizures

 

Does Marijuana Help Arthritis?

Yes. Cannabis has been proven to be an effective treatment for chronic pain, including that caused by arthritis. In fact, according to a report published by Dalhousie University, the majority of Canadians taking medical cannabis are doing so to help ease the pain of arthritis. The two doctors involved in that particular study discovered that cannabinoids were effective in reducing joint nerve activity, which is what causes discomfort in arthritis patients. 

 

Can Cannabis Be Used To Treat Glaucoma?

Possibly. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, after cataracts, especially in older people, and it’s caused by varying factors including decreased blood flow of the optic nerve, mechanical compression, and/or high eye pressure. Traditional treatments involve surgery or topical medication eye drops that lower the pressure in the eye to a level where glaucoma doesn’t progress. However, for people who cannot tolerate typical glaucoma medications, cannabis has been prescribed because it lowers intraocular pressure. Since legalization, more research is being done on the effectiveness of topical cannabis and CBD drops. As with all diseases, it’s important you consult your doctor about medical marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma.   

 

Can Marijuana Be Used To Treat Cataracts?

No. Cataracts occur when the lens of your eye becomes cloudy and it’s a result of the breakdown of proteins in your lens. This is common with age. Cannabis has not been proven as an effective treatment for cataracts.

 

Is Cannabis Safer Than Other Medications?

Yes. Firstly, marijuana isn’t as physically addictive as most medications, especially opioids. Discontinuing cannabis use after a prolonged period would invoke the same response as you’d have quitting coffee. Secondly, it is not dangerous. Unlike some rumours that circulated in the 1960s, marijuana does not lower your IQ or cause brain damage. And there has never been a report of a fatality as a direct result of the consumption of marijuana. Finally, the side effects of cannabis are insignificant when compared to the side effects of many prescription drugs. That all said, seniors have been known to visit the hospital after consuming too much of a cannabis product too quickly. Again, there’s nothing life-threatening about ingesting marijuana but if you take too much, the “high” can be uncomfortable and you’ll have to wait it out for a few hours. When it comes to consuming cannabis, the rule is to start with a small dose and go slowly. Especially when it comes to edibles. Learn more about this in our article How To Choose The Right Type of Cannabis Edibles.” 

 

Can Marijuana Reduce or Replace Prescription Medication?

Quite possibly. It depends on the type of medication you’re taking and for what. In some cases, opiate-based painkillers are enhanced when used concurrently with marijuana, meaning you’ll need less of the pharmaceuticals. And with sleeping aids or anti-nausea medication, it may be possible to get off them altogether by replacing them with cannabis. In short, it’s worth having a conversation with your doctor about how medical marijuana can be included in your medicine regimen.

 

What Are The Side Effects Of Cannabis Consumption?

Unlike the long list of scary side effects that are common with many prescription medications (such as “anal leakage”), the side effects of cannabis consumption are rather benign. As mentioned above, cannabis is safer than other medications. However, ingesting too much will make for an uncomfortable experience – for example, some people have suffered paranoia from too much marijuana consumption. So it’s important to take it slow at first. Other side effects include a decrease in motor responses, forgetfulness, and impaired judgement. It’s also important to note that if you choose to smoke marijuana, there are negative health effects associated with long-term inhalation of carcinogens. Alternatives to smoking include topical treatments, edibles and vaping.

 

How To Purchase Cannabis

The easiest, safest and most discreet way to buy cannabis is online through a reputable website. You don’t have to worry about leaving the house, you can shop any time of day and night, and the percentage of THC content in each product is displayed, so you know the potency and how it will affect you. And all online distributors will send your purchase in a simple, unmarked package straight to your door. The other option is to physically go to a store and purchase cannabis from a “bud-tender.”. 

 

How To Consume Cannabis

The main intoxicating part of the cannabis plant is the flower, also known as the bud, and there are many popular methods, listed below, through which to consume it. However, it’s important to note that, as with any intoxicant such as alcohol or coffee, it’s important to take it slow at first and only consume a small amount. You wouldn’t walk into a bar and chug six beers all at once, nor should you eat or smoke a lot of cannabis at first. If eating it, a good rule of thumb for beginners is to start with a dose of 5 mg in a two-hour period. That is a very small amount. Remember: you can always do more, but you can never go back. Therefore, in the case of the Black Cherry Jelly, you’ll want to take one-eighth or just one of the square segments to start because the overall THC content of the whole gummy is 40mg of THC. For those who have used cannabis edibles before, a standard dose is typically considered to be 10 mg. Veteran consumers and medical patients can take a higher dose. If vaping or smoking cannabis, take one small inhalation and wait 10 minutes for an effect. Here are the most common ways to consume cannabis:

#1. Vaping

Vaporizing cannabis is the act of heating it to a temperature just below combustion point so that active ingredients are released in vapour and inhaled, but no smoke is created. More can be learned in our article “Vaporizing Cannabis – What is Vaping, is it Bad For You, and How To Do It?”

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#2. Oils

Like all flowers, cannabis can be distilled down into an oil form and either consumed orally or applied topically.

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#3. Edibles

Edibles are food or drink products that are infused with parts or derivatives of a cannabis plant that have a psychoactive effect on the body when consumed. We take an extensive look at this type of topic in our article, “How To Choose The Right Type of Cannabis Edibles.”

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#4. Smoking

For centuries this has been the most popular method of consuming marijuana. The bud is rolled into a cigarette (aka “joint”) or placed in some form of pipe (such as a “bong”), lit on fire and the smoke is inhaled.

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#5. Drops, Tinctures, Capsules 

Similar to oils and edibles, these products are distilled from the bud of a cannabis plant and packaged in various forms making consumption as easy as popping a daily vitamin.

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What To Buy For A Parent, Grandparent or Elderly Friend

Many of us have been tasked with the responsibility of getting our elderly family members and friends set up with some form of cannabis product. Either that or we just want to do something nice for them and gift something that will let them enjoy a fun experience. But with so many marijuana items out there, from shatter to vaporizers to Frida’s THC Tea, what should you get them? A good rule of thumb is to start with edibles because they’re easy to consume and don’t require any rolling papers, grinders or other equipment. Foods your family or friends are used to such as chocolates, gummies and baked goods are all available infused with cannabis. The key to ensure their enjoyment, is to make sure they only eat a tiny amount for their first experience. And by tiny, we mean a small fraction of a candy, cookie or bar. Start with a dose of 5 mg of THC in a two-hour period. For example, with the Cherry Dark Chocolate bar, you’ll want to ensure only one square is consumed for the first two hours. That will set your parent, grandparent or elderly friend up for a very fun, very new experience.