Even since its legalization, the Florida medical cannabis industry has seen upward trends in acceptance and usage across all demographics. However, some camps have expressed concern about cannabis usage in senior citizens, citing fears that the drug could accelerate or even instigate cognitive decline in this vulnerable population.
As the COVID-19 situation unfolded, however, medical cannabis use has continued to rise among older adults who use the substance to combat chronic pain, depression, and sleep issues. As the pandemic drags into its 7th month, it is expected that more seniors will be looking to this natural treatment. But the question remains – is it safe for older patients?
Cognitive Studies Provide Varied Results
Past studies attempting to link cognitive decline to cannabis use in younger people have been inconclusive. Some have reported that prolonged cannabis use can be linked to small decreases in IQ over time, while others refute these claims. However, a new study published by the NIH indicates that seniors and older adults do not face any measurable risk by utilizing medical cannabis. In fact, early studies on elderly mice seem to indicate just the opposite – that in fact, cognitive behavior may be improved with cannabis use in this age group. Still, no real conclusions can be made by researchers at this time regarding the longer-term usage of cannabis by seniors – whether the effects are good, bad, or indifferent.
The study mentioned above aside, few human studies have been conducted, and those conducted with younger cannabis users are not scientifically relevant to the older population. This is due to the fact that the brain undergoes many changes in global and regional volumes and neural activity patterns throughout its life cycle. The new study was conducted by Israeli researchers looking for links to cannabis use and cognitive impairment in users over 65 years of age.
The study followed 125 elderly patients living with chronic pain, 63 of whom use medical cannabis to treat their condition, and 62 who did not. Researchers assessed cognitive function after the cannabis group had not ingested the substance for 3 hours or more, to gauge reaction time, working memory and new learning capability. They reported no statistically relevant differences between the two groups, even when adjusting for different dosage levels, frequency of use, or relative concentrations of THC and CBD. None of these factors appeared to influence results.
The researchers concluded that the use of whole plant medical cannabis does not significantly impact the cognitive ability of chronic pain patients in the older demographic. These results represent good news for a growing population of Florida seniors looking for safer and more natural ways to treat their pain and depression.
At Neurology of Cannabis, we are dedicated to the education of our patients. If you are a Florida resident who is new to the idea of using medical cannabis as a form of treatment, call us for a consultation. We can assist you in obtaining your medical marijuana card; and are happy to inform you about the benefits of cannabis for your specific condition. Call us today at (941) 400-1211.