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Cannabis and Seniors: Part 2

Despite the challenges, cannabis can improve the quality of life and the health of seniors, and cannabis treatment can be a good alternative to the over-medication and subsequent side effects to which many seniors are exposed and from which many senior patients suffer serious harm.

Determining where to start and which products to buy can be overwhelming, especially for new cannabis users. So, senior patients: what can you do to maximize the safety and efficacy of your treatment plan and to minimize the risks of using cannabis as a treatment modality?

Do these 5 things:

Number 1: Work with a Healthcare Professional.

You should always get your medical advice from a healthcare professional (HCP). A competent healthcare professional (HCP) will provide a comprehensive intake meeting where you review the conditions that you want to treat and assess your prescription medications to identify potential contraindications with cannabis. Use your time with your HCP to learn how to administer your medicines, how to use any new devices, and discuss the benefits and potential side effects of any recommended products. And, ensure that you work with a HCP that provides ongoing support to help you navigate the complexities of cannabis treatment, local laws, and access issues.

Some patients skip this step because it can be expensive, and insurance companies do not cover these costs. However, working with an HCP can be an effective way to save time and money. An experienced HCP can get you started with a treatment plan that includes specific products, dosing, and frequency information, and can save you the heartache and expense of false starts and bad advice.

Number 2: Pick the right route.

There are a number of different methods that you can use to consume cannabis and the benefits that you can derive are influenced by each method of administration.

Each method provides a unique experience and set of effects.

Applying cannabis topically can be a good place to start if you’re new to cannabis or if you’re anxious about using cannabis. Topicals provide local relief by penetrating only the top layers of the skin. Because they do not reach the bloodstream, topicals generally have no systemic side effects. Topicals can provide relief in the hands, neck, ankles, and feet.

  • Ingesting cannabis can be an effective option if you’re treating sleep-related issues and chronic pain. However, when consuming cannabis orally, there is a wide array of onset variability, with effects perceived within 1-3 hours of ingesting, depending on your metabolism. The duration of effects when using this route of administration can last 5 hours or more, especially in an experienced user. Dosing is key with edibles. Work with a knowledgeable HCP to determine an effective low starting dose.

  • Inhaling cannabis relieves pain quickly and gives you the most control over your dose. And while many senior patients are reticent to smoke, this option can be very effective when treating pain, nausea, appetite loss, and depression.

Number 3: Choose the correct cannabinoid.

You can use cannabis to relieve pain, improve sleep, reduce stress, and improve mood. But which cannabinoids should you look for in your products?

  • You can use small amounts of THC to reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Look for THCa to reduce inflammation and to treat mild pain without the euphoric or impairing effects of THC.

  • Use CBD to treat mild pain, to help reduce inflammation, and to mitigate the unwanted effects from THC, like lethargy, dysphoria, and short term-memory loss. CBD alone may not be enough to control your pain.

  • And use CBDa to help treat mild pain and fatigue.

Number 4: Pick the right product.

First and foremost, you want to ensure that the product is safe. Cleanliness and product safety remains an issue in the cannabis industry. Some states have mandatory, state-regulated testing. Others do not. And, even when there are safety regulations in place, cannabis products tainted with pesticides, mold, or bacteria can sometimes find their way into the market. Always ask to see the test results.

Next, look for products that you can consume in small doses. Some cannabis products now enable you to precisely dose even down to a single milligram of the active ingredient. Make sure that the label clearly identifies the ingredients, including the milligrams of cannabinoids and optimally, the terpene content. Terpenes are organic compounds with strong odors that are produced by plants. There are an estimated 200 terpenes in cannabis. The main terpenes in cannabis have been studied and they demonstrate their own therapeutic properties. In fact, terpenes are the reason why you can have two strains of cannabis with similar cannabinoid profiles but with very different effects: one very sedating and one uplifting or energizing.

For example, cannabis products that contain myrcene and linalool are appropriate to use in the evening, as these terpenes are typically sedating. Products with limonene or pinene, however, are more appropriate to daytime use, as limonene and pinene can both be alerting.

Number 5: Formulate a Plan and stick to it.

All cannabis patients require an individualized treatment plan. Generally, you will start with a low dose, then slowly and iteratively increase the dose until you reach efficacy. Starting with a low dose minimizes unwanted side effects and reduces the chances of building a tolerance to the effectiveness of your dose. For senior patients, an average dose can be between 1 mg and 3 mg. Some of you will need more, others less.

Treat one condition at a time. And, consider how each route of administration may affect your condition. For example, if you’re treating constant arthritic pain, you might need to apply a topical directly to the area, ingest cannabis to help treat the pain throughout the day, and inhale cannabis to treat breakthrough pain.

Your plan must include how much of a medicine to take, how frequently to take it, and how long to take a specified dose. Discuss with your HCP when and under what circumstances you should increase your dose, as well as the predicted length of therapy.

Even using these steps, some experimentation is often necessary. Individualize your treatment to fit your lifestyle by experimenting with different cannabinoids, dosages, and frequencies. Many patients find relief with cannabis—it can be a safe and effective choice for treating age-related and chronic illness, and for possibly reducing your intake of pharmaceuticals that have severe side effects.

Patience and persistence often pays off.

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