Many older Americans are self-medicating with medical marijuana without the help of physicians

“People in their 80s and 90s, even retired Air Force colonels, are finding such relief” with cannabis, Shari Horne, a 66-year-old medical marijuana user and city council member in Laguna Woods, California, told the New York Times. “Almost everybody I know is using it in one form or another.”

So many older residents of Laguna Woods, in Orange County, use medical marijuana, that the closest dispensary, Bud and Bloom, has hired a charter bus to provide free transportation to its Santa Ana location, which includes a catered lunch en route, and a senior discount, says the Times.

Ms. Horne uses a salve containing cannabidiol to ease the pain of a toe, injured a decade ago, and a tincture of cannabidiol mixed with THC to treat a case of bursitis on her shoulder. Meanwhile, her husband uses it to help him sleep.

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Medical marijuana popularity is skyrocketing among older Americans, reports the Times, and physicians expect that number to rise as more states legalize medical marijuana, and as the baby boomers age into elder years. After all, they are the first modern generation that came into their own in a world that smoked cannabis with ease. They were the hippie generation.

Dr. David Casarett, chief of palliative care at Duke University Medical Center, told the Times “You might not like it. You might not believe in it. But your patients are using this stuff.”

Although research has shown the potential of cannabis to treat a myriad of medical conditions, much of that science is in rudimentary stages and requires more work. In the meantime, some scientists are wary of the wide adoption of cannabis among the older cohort, said the Times. They are nervous that patients are self-medicating, without the help of a professional.

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One elderly user, the Times said, learned through weeks of trial and error how to use cannabis to treat her Parkinson’s, giving her four hours in which to work on her beloved art projects. “I didn’t know how this would mix with my other meds,” she said. “How would it affect my sleep? The only answer was to slowly introduce it and see.”

“The social support and legislation [are] outpacing the research,” Dr. Joshua Briscoe, a psychiatrist at Duke, said. “If I want to say, ‘Take this dose for this condition and that dose for that one’ — the evidence just isn’t there.”

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