It is a widely held stereotype that the elderly are consistently against marijuana. Whether through direct campaigning tied to the reefer scare years of the 1960s, or due to good old fashioned fear of new things, many view the elderly as being staunchly anti-cannabis.
Well it turns out that, in keeping with the status of marijuana in the USA, the elderly have begun to change their mind. There is a massive push towards trying marijuana, with some older people even incorporating it into their daily lives.
Whether for medicinal purposes or just to enjoy themselves and relax a bit, more and more elderly Americans have begun to adopt marijuana than ever before.
Let’s take a look at the why and how of elderly people taking marijuana.
Why Are Elderly People Taking Marijuana?
The answer to this question is pretty simple: It’s the same as everyone else’s reasons for using the plant. People are turning to cannabis either because they enjoy it, or because it helps them medically.
Though marijuana used to be essentially impossible to get without relying on an illicit drug dealer connection, many states in the USA now sell fully legalized cannabis at special retail establishments. Heck, you can even grow your own if you want!
This new wave of legalization not only makes it easier to buy marijuana than ever before, but it also lends it a degree of legitimacy.
Elderly people are always going to be pretty conservative-leaning, if only because their way of thinking was developed back when certain conservative ideologies were more present than today. To that end, many elderly people were hesitant to partake in cannabis, even if they were inherently curious, because of its illegality.
Now that it is swiftly becoming legal and, even more important to them, swiftly becoming normal, elderly people are rushing to their local dispensaries.
Even for those unlucky elderly citizens that do not live in a legalized state, many more states have legalized medicinal marijuana. In certain states, it is insanely easy to get a prescription for marijuana as long as you have an understanding doctor and a qualifying condition.
With the myriad of health problems that the elderly usually experience, this makes it incredibly simple for an elderly person to obtain marijuana, whether or not it is fully legal.
So, what are the reasons that older people are starting to use marijuana?
Helping Them Get to Sleep
When you get older, one of the most frustrating issues that can crop up is the inability to get to sleep easily. Though there is certainly a stereotype of elderly people having constant naps all day, in reality many elderly people struggle to get a full night’s sleep. This is mostly due to various aches and pains that they can suffer from.
Marijuana is the perfect drug to help treat this, as it has been used to treat insomnia for thousands of years. When ingested, the THC and CBD within cannabis interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and trigger the CB1 receptor. This receptor is responsible for the release of potent neurochemicals, one of which is melatonin.
When melatonin is released, it triggers the body to begin to enter into a sleep-ready state. Your eyes begin to get heavier, your limbs feel less useful, and you have a larger propensity for yawning.
Marijuana can also just generally help you relax, especially if a particularly strong indica strain is chosen. That wonderful couch-locked sensation allows many elderly people to feel relaxed, comfortable, and contented enough to fall asleep when they need to.
This useful benefit leads directly to another primary reason for taking marijuana, and that is inflammation.
Getting Rid of Inflammation
Inflammation is one of the body’s primary responses. Just like the fever response, the body will cause an area to be inflamed if it fears that it has been injured or compromised in some way.
However, there are many conditions, such as arthritis, that can cause severe inflammation which does nothing but cause pain and irritation. These irritations are one of the reasons that elderly people struggle to get to sleep, but also why they might struggle with basic tasks.
Marijuana is a wonderful anti-inflammatory for the same reasons that it helps make sleep easier. By triggering the endocannabinoid system, marijuana is able to essentially shut off the body’s inflammation response and make it so the elderly person isn’t suffering unnecessarily.
This effect of Cannabis was primarily noticed in a study by Carrier et al., wherein cannabinoids (specifically cannabidiol, or CBD) were noticed to fight against the natural inhibitors of the direct antagonist of the adenosine receptor, also known as A2A, which is the principle way in which the inflammation response is triggered.
This ability to essentially shut off inflammation improves elderly people’s lives greatly, as continuous pain is a horrific concept to live with.
However, it isn’t just physical pain that provides reasons for elderly people using marijuana; it’s also useful for mental issues as well.
Say Goodbye to Anxiety & Depression
Though we all like to think our grandparents are essentially happy people, the truth of the matter is that anxiety, depression and other mental disorders are extremely common among the elderly.
Part of this is due to the degradation of their mental state as they age, but it is primarily due to loneliness. Many elderly people live alone or in larger elderly homes, so this is a very easy place to develop mental disorders due to feelings of loneliness.
Thankfully, elderly people can turn to marijuana to help.
Both depression and anxiety could be helped through the triggering of the CB1 receptor, leading to a release of positive neurochemicals in the brain and overall feeling of wellbeing.
In a study by Blessing et al. for the Journal of Neurotherapeutics, scientists tested the capacity that marijuana had on people’s mental states if they suffered from anxiety. They measured their level of happiness, anxiety and feelings of self doubt before, during, and after the study.
The study demonstrated that those who took marijuana, as well as those that only took CBD (albeit in extremely high doses) had a much higher average happiness, as well as reporting less incidents of feelings of anxiety or depression.
There is still one other condition that taking marijuana helps with and it is perhaps the most surprising on this list: The heart.
Marijuana’s Effect on Heart Conditions
Whenever an elderly person passes away without an appropriately known cause, it is usually written or referred to as “dying of old age”. Well, it might surprise you to know that this is literally meaningless – if you die of old age, you die of heart failure.
Heart failure, whether as a result of a sudden cardiac arrest or through congenital heart disease, is the biggest killer of people in the USA. There is a reason that so many people take beta blockers and statins every day!
It turns out that marijuana is actually excellent as a natural aid for heart issues, due to its vascular relaxant properties.
A study by Jadoon et al. found that both CBD and THC had a noticeable effect on the average blood pressure of subjects, most notably those with prior conditions that caused them to suffer from high blood pressure.
What’s even better is that marijuana doesn’t have the side effects associated with many heart medications, instead offering a risk free alternative to conventional medication in treating heart issues.
This is entirely besides the reduction in stress that marijuana gives its users; heart issues are very much tied to too much stress, so being able to adopt a lifestyle focused on minimal stress ensure that an elderly person will have a much longer, and more enjoyable life.
Final Thoughts on Marijuana and the Elderly
The elderly as a whole lead very disjointed lives; either living alone, living in care homes or living separate from the families that they helped raise, it is very easy for them to slip through the cracks of medicine, as well as their family’s awareness.
Thanks to the onset of marijuana legalization, however, elderly people are able to self-medicate using marijuana more than ever before.
However, despite the sheer enormity of different medical issues that marijuana is able to help treat, by far the best part of elderly use of marijuana is its enjoyment.
Elderly people are able to enjoy themselves freely and without complication, getting high on their own or with loved ones and engaging in a pleasurable, fulfilling high.
Whether they prefer the visceral mind high of sativas, or the intense, couch-locked sensation of indicas is up to them, but the fact remains that, now more than ever, elderly people are using marijuana at rates never before seen.
The times change and, thankfully, this is one issue with which the elderly can jump on board.