Seniors and Medical Marijuana: 3 Important Ways Cannabis Helps

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Why medical marijuana and seniors?  In 2021 the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 16.8% of the U.S. population will be over 65 putting significant stress on a health care system that is already buckling under the stress of an aging population needing more health care services.

Experts from multiple fields from medicine to insurance have been devising all kinds of solutions. However the one solution never mentioned is to increase the use of cannabis by seniors.

Pain, depression and insomnia are the most common ailments of advancing years and cannabis is tailor-made to provide safe and effective therapeutic relief to these chronic maladies and many others as well.

Medical Marijuana and Pain Relief


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Chronic pain afflicts most seniors due to a lifetime wearing down of joints and muscles, a general decrease in activity levels and the presence of other medical conditions. 88% of seniors complain of varying degrees of chronic pain.

Rather than providing them with dangerous and addicting opioid based medications like Percocet and Vicodin, doctors could provide effective and safe treatment for pain using cannabis.

A 2015 study at Montreal’s McGill University found that “chronic pain patients who use herbal cannabis daily for one-year report reduced discomfort and increased quality of life.”

Cannabis to treat pain was so effective that a research paper published in the Journal of Health Affairs found that when cannabis was easily available “FDA-approved prescription drugs under Medicare Part D fell substantially.”

Medical Marijuana and Depression

Although depression is not a normal part of aging, it is estimated to affect over six million senior Americans. 

Life changes associated with advancing years such as the death of a spouse or deterioration of bodily functions can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety and stress detrimentally affecting how an older person manages their daily activities of life such as sleeping, eating, and working.

Treatment for depression can range from consultations with psychologists to the use of prescription pharmaceuticals.

The most common, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are Celexa, Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac and Effexor. Although effective in varying degrees, they increase the risk of falling, injuries, seizures, strokes and dying.

There is another way to treat depression. The endocannabinoid system and the endocannabinoids produced by our bodies are responsible for maintaining homeostasis – keeping our bodies in balance.

Research has shown that depression can come from a reduction in the production of endocannabinoids thereby throwing our bodies out of balance. These cannabinoid deficiencies produced by stress and other triggers of depression can be ameliorated through the supplemental
use of cannabis.

“Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression,” was the conclusion of a 2015 report issued by neuroscientists from the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on

Depression shares many of the same symptoms as PTSD and cannabis has been shown to effectively mitigate these symptoms as published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs and Neuropsychopharmacology.

Although these conclusions are speculative, the legendary ability of cannabis to enhance mood provides thousands of years of anecdotal evidence to substantiate this research.

Medical Marijuana and Insomnia

Although insomnia is not directly related to aging, over 50% of seniors report problems sleeping, whether it is falling asleep, staying asleep or obtaining enough sleep.

Developing a regular sleeping pattern and exercise are solutions that many find helpful, but still almost 1/3 of seniors take prescription pharmaceuticals in a quest to get a good night’s sleep.

Most commonly prescribed are barbiturates like Seconal, benzodiazepines like Xanax or insomnia “Z” meds like Ambien. From increasing the risk of falls to confusion and constipation, all of these drugs have significant negative side-effects.

As pain and anxiety can thwart sleep, the ability of cannabis to mitigate pain and reduce anxiety as noted above can overcome some of the most common causes of insomnia.

In addition, cannabinoids are involved in the sleep-wake cycle and other circadian processes.

THC and the lesser known cannbinoid CBN, exhibit significant sedative properties helping to explain why the ingestion of cannabis facilitates falling asleep and increases Stage 4 sleep which is deep sleep.

Medical Marijuana and Seniors Conclusion

Whether for pain, depression or insomnia, the documented ability of cannabis to provide safe, effective therapeutic relief to many of the ailments associated with aging can restore health, vitality and optimism. Cannabis keeps the golden years “golden.”

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About the author 

Lanny Swerdlow

Lanny Swerdlow, RN is host of the Internet radio show Marijuana Compassion & Common Sense and founder of the Marijuana Anti Prohibition Project and the Brownie Mary Democratic Club. Contact him at

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