Is Medical Marijuana a Suitable Option for Older Adults?


The growing interest in medical marijuana among older adults in the United States raises important questions about its effects and potential benefits, particularly in relation to cognitive health and memory. Recent data from the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates a notable increase in cannabis use among adults aged 65 and older, from 2.4% in 2015 to 4.2% in 2018. This upward trend is echoed in other research and suggests a shifting perspective towards this once-stigmatized substance.
Is Medical Marijuana a Suitable Option for Older Adults?

Cannabis, with its varying amounts of the therapeutic compound cannabidiol (CBD), is known for its potential to ease anxiety. However, the concerns regarding its short-term impact on cognitive functions like thinking, working memory, executive function, and psychomotor abilities remain. Harvard Health highlights these concerns, emphasizing the need for more research to fully understand the long-term implications of cannabis use, especially its possible association with dementia in later life.

Additionally, medical cannabis has been utilized for managing challenging behaviors in dementia, such as agitation and aggression, as well as mood and pain management. However, its effectiveness varies, and concerns about side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, and potential cognitive impairment persist. The Memory and Aging Center offers insights into these aspects.

Interestingly, studies have also explored the role of cannabinoids in removing Alzheimer’s-related brain plaques, as reported by Salk Institute. This research adds a layer of complexity to the debate, hinting at potential therapeutic benefits for neurodegenerative diseases.

Despite these promising avenues, it’s essential to proceed with caution, especially when considering interactions between CBD and other medications. As medical cannabis becomes more accessible, with its legal status in 37 states and various delivery methods, including edibles and topical applications, understanding its full impact remains a key area for ongoing research.

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In conclusion, while the use of medical marijuana among older adults is on the rise, its benefits and risks, particularly concerning cognitive health and memory, require further exploration. With ongoing studies and evolving perspectives, the role of cannabis in managing health issues in older adults continues to be a topic of significant interest and debate.

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