Medical Marijuana for PA Senior Citizens

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Author: Wendy, Dispensary Technician

If you are a senior citizen, you are among the fastest growing demographic groups using medical marijuana. I am Wendy: the most senior tech at Keystone Shops. I share some of the ailments and limitations as many of our senior patients, as well as a low tolerance for medications. Permit me to share my tips on gentle cannabis use based on the top issues and goals of senior patients.

Chronic pain, insomnia, depression and anxiety afflict elder patients as they deal with the natural cycle of loss that aging brings. Mobility and sensory reduction, and uncomfortable side effects from prescription medications and treatments can contribute to feelings of losing control and independence. Fast forward to the step where either you or your doctor or both decide that medical marijuana might be worth trying to relieve uncomfortable symptoms. You get your card and voilà: you arrive at a dispensary to make your purchase.

Cannabinoids, terpenes, decarboxylation?! These pretty scientific words make one reach for the readers and start googling! But for you, dear Keystone patients, I will keep it simple. 

Turns out marijuana is a very complex creature with lots of cannabis compounds, or cannabinoids, that interact with each other and the consumer. In addition, it is available for consumption in several forms (flower, oils, concentrates for vaporizing or ingesting). 

Some of the cannabis compounds, or cannabinoids, medicate with intoxicating psychoactive effects while others medicate with positive, non-intoxicating psychoactive effects. CBD is the celebrity compound that falls into the latter category. Anyone breathing has heard about it, and a large percentage of our senior patients have high hopes for its efficacy. All of our CBD products, however, have some THC in them. The two compounds overlap in relieving some symptoms, but beyond that work differently and address separate problems. CBD also tempers the intoxication of THC, or as my manager Ryan would say, “Gives you the high without the stupid.”  

A common and difficult request we hear is “I want the best thing to relieve blankety blank …… but I don’t want to be high.” Based on patient feedback and my own experience, CBD and its intoxicating partner, THC, work best as a team, and patients need to pick their players accordingly. Discovering what works for each patient is a process! Be ready to:

1. Try products with various ratios and dosages of THC and CBD. You may need more of one than the other depending on the type and source of your symptoms, and the time and place you will be medicating.

2. If you are able, use a combination of vaporization and ingestible products. The former offers quicker, shorter term relief, while the latter lays low for a while and then kicks in for the long haul.

3. Have  realistic expectations of exactly how much marijuana can dial down symptoms without further inhibiting functional abilities. If a patient is getting no relief from high CBD products and can not tolerate  intoxicating properties of THC to any degree, at any time, medical marijuana may not be a fit. This is why starting with little doses is best. One may not get much relief at first, but eventually,  more tolerance of some amount of THC can develop. Going back to the team analogy: if THC and CBD are your new players, they need to be systematically and gradually trained to get strong and play their best without getting injured. 

4. Be aware that the program in PA is still growing and the products depend on the successful growth of a PLANT. Therefore products may at times become unavailable. Consequently it is best to become accustomed to multiple products so a back up plan is at your service when necessary.

At it’s best marijuana can enable patients regain their ability to feel more “normal” and well. It may not be the entire answer for everyone, but it can be a fabulous and safe tool in a toolbox for feeling well as we age. I have learned what makes me feel good but not ‘high.’ Senior patients must be open-minded and understand that in the medical marijuana world there are no absolutes or prescriptions. But at Keystone Shops there is guidance!


Disclaimer: As always, seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider when considering trying a new treatment. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your doctor first.

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