Royce Shook

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What older Canadians have said about the use of cannabis:

 In the workshops we give on Health and Wellness to seniors in Canada, (because of ZOOM we are giving workshops in Edmonton, and Ottawa, not just in BC) many participants have asked us about the use of medical cannabis. So, about a month ago, I did some searching and came up with a series of slides that are now included in our workshops on the use of medical cannabis for health and wellness. As part of that search, I found the following article from Active Ageing Canada

Since the legalization of cannabis in 2018, 30% of our online survey respondents of older Canadians had used cannabis. Amongst our survey sample of 638 people, 40% of those not currently using cannabis were interested and considering using cannabis. Most of those currently using, and those considering using cannabis, were for medical reasons, primarily because of chronic pain, inflammation, sleep issues, muscle pain, and anxiety. Over half of our older adult survey responders said:

• they would like to learn more about cannabis and its risks and benefits

• wanted credible information from a trusted source

• wanted information on medical/therapeutic benefits and use

• a health professional was their main source of trusted information, but recognize that many don’t have training in cannabis use and there is stil la stigma attached to asking their doctors about it. 

The information we gained from our survey is similar to emerging data indicating both increased use of and interest in cannabis among older adults.

Why do older adults use cannabis

Both medicinal and recreational cannabis is now legal in Canada. Most older adult users shave therapeutic reasons for using cannabis. They say their main reasons for trying cannabis are to see if it helps with ageing and the side effects of chronic disease. They see it as an alternative therapy.

Older adults use medicinal cannabis:

•        for pain

•        for anxiety and depression

•        for sleep problems

•        as an alternative to a prescription drug

•        to achieve a better quality of life.

Cannabis use by adults 65years and older is increasing faster than in any other age group. In Canada in 2019, 6.6% of older adults reported using cannabis. That is up from 1% in 2012.

Most older adults who use cannabis are new users. A few are life-long users or people who used cannabis in early life and have begun again. One reason for the increased use is changing attitudes towards cannabis. There is also an increasing curiosity about its health benefits. There are no stereotypes for a cannabis user. They can be of any age and any background.

Medical cannabis

Cannabis with THC produces feelings of euphoria or relaxation. Recreational cannabis means a person is using cannabis for enjoyment rather than for medical reasons. While medical and recreational cannabis can come from the same plant sources, the products will focus on different chemical properties depending on the desired results. Label for cannabis products with predominantly THC content.

Medical cannabis is prescribed by a doctor to treat specific health conditions and symptoms. The prescription is filled by a licensed producer. The prescription could be for natural cannabis products in the form of THC or CBD. It could also be for a synthetic cannabis drug, only available by prescription.

In addition to natural cannabis products, pharmaceutical preparations are available. These are either created from the cannabis plant or recreated in a laboratory. They have a defined potency and dosing information.

Prescription cannabinoids that mimic THC have been approved by Health Canada for use in Canada. These are Marinol, Cesamet (or nabilone), and Sativex (or nabiximol). They are for the treatment of multiple sclerosis spasticity and pain due to cancer.

As cannabis is now legal in Canada, you might ask if a medical prescription is still needed.

Reasons why a person might want to get medical cannabis with a prescription include:

•        Access to prescription synthetic cannabis.

•        Workplace insurance plans are starting to cover

•        medical cannabis, and a prescription receipt is needed to make a claim.

•        If you are on government social assistance or are considered low-income, you may qualify for a discount.


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