Does Weed Improve the Quality of Life for Older Adults?
Yes, and in numerous ways, according to a new study.
Add another study to the growing stack of research showing that cannabis helps improve seniors' quality of life. This one comes from the University of Florida, which focused on the impact of cannabis on seniors who suffer from chronic pain.
The study involved 46 middle-aged people who suffer from daily pain. University researchers assessed the impact of cannabis on their pain over three months. Spoiler alert: Weed really works.
Lots of benefits
Patients reported lower levels of pain after using cannabis. But the benefits didn't end there. After using cannabis for just a few weeks, patients reported significant reductions in "momentary pain intensity" as well as:
- Reductions in the intensity of anxiety
- An increase in daily sleep duration
- Increased sleep quality
After three months of use, the patients reported even more improvements. They included:
- Significantly lower levels of the worst pain
- Lowered pain interference in their daily lives
- Lower levels of depression
- Increased sleep duration and sleep quality
- Increased quality of life
That's a remarkable set of findings. But with so many studies out there, it can almost get lost in the blizzard of cannabis information.
More weed, less pain
At this point, the only cannabis medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration treats seizures for a rare type of epilepsy. But pain management is one of the main reasons people give for using medical marijuana.
Recent studies have shown that people have been ahead of scientific research for years – not surprising given the state of U.S research into cannabis. But over the past two years, scientists have released significant research into cannabis and pain management that is starting to back what advocates have said for decades.
- A recent review of 22 scientific papers by the California Institute of Behavioral Neurosciences found that cannabis may be "a source of hope" for those who live with chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia.
- A study on the impact of cannabis on chronic pain by Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Boston found that patients experienced lower pain, lower anxiety, and improved sleep and mood. Many also used fewer opioids after trying cannabis for six months. The patients included those with arthritis, neuropathy, and joint pain.
- A study in Canada reached many of the same conclusions, showing that patients who tried marijuana not only experienced less pain but also lowered their use of prescription pain medication.
That's just the tip of the scientific study iceberg. Several new studies, many of them from other countries, have shown the efficacy of cannabis for pain, sleep, and anxiety.
The people have spoken
The research is ongoing, and for many medical scientists, the evidence remains inconclusive. But marijuana is one area where "regular people" are not waiting for elected officials to guide the way.
The legalization movement started with voter referendums. It's only in the last few years that elected officials have felt politically safe enough to make cannabis legal with their votes. The use of medical cannabis seems to be evolving along these same lines.
An estimated 5.4 million people have enrolled in state programs as medical marijuana patients (medical marijuana is legal in 36 states for different conditions).
The Marijuana Policy Project, which tracks data on medical marijuana, reports the percentage of each state's population who have joined state cannabis programs. The top ten might contain a few surprises. Clearly, medical marijuana is not a red state/blue state issue.
- Oklahoma - 9.31 percent
- New Mexico - 5.35 percent
- California - 4.86 percent
- Maine - 4.86 percent
- Arizona - 4.3 percent
- Montana - 3.83 percent
- Pennsylvania - 2.68 percent
- Florida - 2.61 percent
- Arkansas - 2.54 percent
- Hawaii - 2.32 percent
The people have spoken about medical marijuana. For entrepreneurs and cannabis proponents, the job now is finding a way to convince public officials to take a fresh look at research and give the people what they so clearly want nationwide.