20 Dec All Aboard the Canni-Bus!
Meet Shirley Avedon. At 90, she missed out on the summer of love, never smoked a joint or tripped out on hallucinogens. But her carpal tunnel syndrome was shooting pains into both of her hands, making it difficult to do even simple tasks. “It’s very painful, sometimes I can’t even open my hand,” Avedon said.
Time to try alternative treatments
Kaiser Health News profiles the story of Shirley and Bud and Bloom, a dispensary in Orange County. Shirley had trouble tolerating the steroids her doctor prescribed and had little faith in the surgery he was recommending. Ready to try alternative treatments, she’s been joining her friends on the free shuttle from her retirement community to a marijuana dispensary in Orange County.
Shirley managed an oncology office for 25 years, and she’s now seeking the same relief their cancer patients used to get from smoking marijuana many years ago. “At that time marijuana wasn’t legal, so they used to get it off their kids! I’m a believer. It was fantastic to see how much marijuana helped them.”
An interest in pain-relieving CBD rather than THC
Avedon’s interest is not about getting high, but on relieving pain. She’s tried a topical cream that is sold as a pain reliever. It contains cannabidiol (CBD), formulated without THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient. “It helped a little. Now I’m going back, hoping they have something that will provide more relief.”
The cannabis industry is booming—even as it remains illegal on the federal level
A total of 30 states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. The cannabis industry is booming even as it remains illegal, according to federal law. Surprisingly, among the fastest growing group of users is those over 50, with steep increases among those 65 and older. Some dispensaries are tailoring their pitches to seniors like Avedon who are seeking alternative treatments for their aches, pains and other conditions.
The bus is paid for by Bud and Bloom, a licensed cannabis dispensary in Santa Ana—a half-hour drive to the dispensary. Half of the 35 seniors on board are repeat customers; the other half are cannabis newbies who’ve never tried it before, said Kandice Hawes, director of community outreach.
Many seniors are seeking more information
“Not everybody is coming to be a customer,” Hawes said. “A lot are just coming to be educated.” One 72-year old woman is using cannabis to help her sleep—a common problem for seniors. She was taking prescription drugs and still slept fitfully. She was hopeful that cannabis would help relieve her back pain and help her sleep.
For those seeking more information, Hawes invited the seniors into a large room with chairs and a table set up with free sandwiches and drinks. She gave a presentation focused on the potential benefits of cannabis as a reliever of anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain and the various ways people can consume it. Several vendors promoted their products that included edibles, vaporizers, tinctures and topical creams.
At Bud and Bloom, seniors make up the bulk of the dispensary’s new business
- Fear of getting high is senior consumers’ biggest concern. The dispensary’s job is education, assuring potential clients that they don’t have to get high to get relief.
- Cannabis remains illegal under federal law, making it harder to research
While cannabis is legal both medically and recreationally in California, it remains a Schedule 1 substance–meaning it’s illegal under federal law–making it harder to study.
- Limited research suggests that marijuana may be helpful in treating pain and nausea, according to research published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
- Less conclusive research points to its helping with sleep problems and anxiety.
- A growing number of patients are interested in using it for anxiety, chronic pain and depression.
The need to proceed with caution
Products bought at marijuana dispensaries aren’t FDA-regulated, as prescription drugs are. Dose and consistency can vary. Cannabis can vary dramatically according to plant, location and growing conditions. It is vulnerable to pathogens and mold. For those who are frail and have weakened immune systems, not knowing the exact levels of THC and CBD can have serious consequences.
There’s a lot to be learned about packaging, identifying quality and setting standards. Experts believe that we’re a long way from being able to make sure that people are getting consistent, high-quality product.
Cannabis: Potential risks and side effects
Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz directs the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “When you have an industry that does nothing but blanket our society with messages about the medicinal value of marijuana, people get the idea this is a safe substance to use, and it’s not true.”
- Side effects can include increased heart rate, nausea and vomiting.
- Some studies show that with long-term use comes the potential for addiction.
- Research suggests that between 9-30% of those who use marijuana may develop some degree of marijuana use disorder.
Yet, if it gets patients off more addictive and potentially dangerous prescription drugs or opioids, that’s a good thing.
As a growing number of Americans turns to cannabis for health reasons, things to keep in mind
- Talk to your doctor, who may have some concerns, particularly for those already taking prescription drugs.
- Be aware of potential dosing issues. Older adults metabolize drugs differently than young people do. Start with the lowest possible dose. Be especially careful with edibles—it can take an hour or so to feel their effects, and there’s a tendency to take more when you don’t initially feel anything. Give edibles time.
- Elderly people are also more sensitive to side effects. If you start to feel unwell, talk to your doctor right away.
- Look for licensed providers. In some states like California, licensed dispensaries must test for contaminants—mold and other pathogens can be especially dangerous for the elderly.
An update on Shirley
She bought something they told her was wonderful for $90. She believes that if it helps ease her carpal tunnel pain it’ll be worth it.
An important part of end-of-life planning is creating a Living Trust
At California Document Preparers, many of our clients are seniors or those caring for seniors. Our conversations cover a wide range of related topics, including healthcare, end-of-life-planning and the importance of creating a Living Trust. The high cost of medications comes up often, and cannabis as an alternative treatment is becoming an important discussion topic.
Is creating a Living Trust in 2019 on your to-do list? Jumpstart the process by scheduling an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices. Our dedicated team is helpful, compassionate and affordable.