Did you know that cannabis use among Americans over 65 increased from 0.4% in 2006 to 4.2% in 2018? This is according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Many use it medicinally to treat arthritis or other pain, or to address issues with insomnia. Others find that it releases the stress of PTSD and everyday anxieties.
It is the latter psychological component above that led researchers to look at the possibility of cannabis for dementia.
The Senior Citizens and Cannabis Dilemma
Given the propaganda of reefer madness and the fact that marijuana has been positioned as a Schedule 1 drug for much of their lives, many people over 65 have some pretty strong beliefs about the “devil’s weed.” So they aren’t always gung ho about trying it for medical conditions.
Furthermore, because cannabis can negatively interact with commonly prescribed medications for seniors – as well as its increased risk of impaired attention, memory, and cognition – doctors haven’t been quick to send their elderly patients the way of the flower.
Even so, not every medical practitioner has shied away from quietly recommending it. Especially for those struggling with the cognitive trauma that can come with dementia.
Cannabis for Dementia
One in nine people over the age of 65 are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia in the United States. Common symptoms include aggression, agitation, delusions, mood disturbances, wandering, hallucinations, and repetitive vocalizations. Because no FDA-approved pharmaceuticals currently exist to treat it, physicians rely on antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. These come with their own set of problems.
Meanwhile, in the not-too-distant past, a teaching institution was interested in the effects that a pharmaceutical-grade version of cannabis called Marinol might have on treating agitation in patients with advancing dementia. And they determined that it could have calming effects for those struggling with end-stage major neurocognitive disorders.
How does it do this?
The belief is that cannabis’s ability to regulate neurotransmitters, improve circadian rhythms and reduce brain inflammation is the holy trifecta for those with dementia. In fact, cannabis binds with receptors located in the same parts of the brain that are implicated in dementia agitation.
While entirely cost prohibitive at this point, Marinol is not really a viable option.
But in the case of a 96-year-old woman with advanced dementia, cannabis made all the difference. In the closing act of her life, she began experiencing horrifying memories from her imprisonment at Auschwitz and Starachowice 80 years before. Her parents and siblings were killed in these camps and now at 96, she was calling out in agony for them. She had even started confusing her phlebotomist with Dr. Mengele who had tortured her as a teenager.
With family advocating for her and determining proper dosing strategies, she received a small dose of marijuana in dissolving-strip form. The terrifying memories and flashbacks ceased and she was able to live out those final months peacefully.
Stay Tuned for More
There’s still so much more research to be done on cannabis for dementia. But it’s definitely showing promise.
To stay up to date on the latest in the industry, keep checking back with our informative blog.
And if you’re a cannabis business owner looking for stellar marketing, contact us today. We’ve got your back.