Cannabis Safety for the Aging Population: An Educational Journey

by | Apr 23, 2022 | Geriatric

According to several research articles and news reports older adults are the fastest growing subset of cannabis consumers in the US and in Canada.  Two articles published online in Clinical Gerontology in 2020 seniors reported using cannabis as medicine but expressed concern that they lacked education in regards to dosing, support, and general education about the plant.  Patients also expressed concerns that there was no guidance from their healthcare providers.  A study done by the Division of Geriatrics at UCSD Department of Medicine noted that there was indeed an increase of use of cannabis as medicine in this patient population and they suggested the need to train clinicians and medical students to support patients on this journey. 

Research has shown cannabis can have many positive benefits if taken responsibly, with guidance and when taking the right dose, the right preparation, and at the right time, based on one’s’ overall health goals.  Cannabis is not a one dose fits all medication so knowing how it works and why it works is imperative.  Being honest about goals and expected outcomes is essential for success and as Dr Dustin Sulak DO is known for saying, “Start Low….Go Slow…but don’t be afraid to go All the Way!”  May I add, “Be patient in the process”.

As cannabis nurse educators it is our duty to be able to openly discuss and guide patients that have sought out our expertise.  In a consultation with the patient we should…

  1. Obtain a medical history including the patients past and current use of cannabis, current medications so we may investigate the possibility of drug to drug interactions.
  2. Talk to patients about their goals and help them to set realistic goals.
  3. Educate the patients on the ECS and its function.
  4. Discuss the plant in all forms, modes of administration, dosing including the potential biphasic effects of cannabis, potential adverse reactions and safe consumption.
  5. Selection of products using the FLOW criteria-Flower derived, Lab tested, Organic, and Whole plant.

Cannabis can be safely used as medicine by most seniors with education and guidance from their healthcare team. As the stigma decreases the acceptance of cannabis consumption as medicine will rise encouraging more research and education in this field.  

  1. Manning, L., Bouchard, L.  Medical Cannabis Use: Exploring the Perceptions and Experiences of Older Adults with Chronic Conditions.  Clinical Gerontology Jan-Feb 2021;44(1):32-41 Epub 2020 Nov 29
  2. Baumbusch, J., Yip,I.   Exploring New Use of Cannabis among Older Adults. Clinical Gerontology Jan-Feb 2021;44(1):25-31 Epub 2020 Mar 29
  1. Brubaker, M., LaFee, S.  Study finds Older Adults Using Cannabis to Treat Common Health Conditions.  October 7, 2020 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

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