AGEING: Medical use of Cannabis

Dr. Jennifer Watt, a former student of Dr. Straus, presented a talk about the medical use of Cannabis.

Dr. Jennifer Watt
Geriatrician, Ph.D. candidate
Clinical Epidemiology Program
University of Toronto

Case studies
Mr. B, 85 years old, chronic back pain and some symptoms of dementia.

Ms. L, 93 years old, suffers from some chronic pain and has fallen a number of times. She has some symptoms of delirium.

Cannabis use
Adult male use of cannabis is nearly 20% in Canada while female use is less than 10%. Dr. Watt did not differentiate between medical and general cannabis use here.

She explained that cannabis ingestion varies widely: smoking, topical sprays, oils and ointments, vaping, pills and the newest form, eatables which in Canada is still unregulated.

Dr. Watt cautioned that cannabis use can have noticeable side effects in adults as there may be a conflict with the medicines now being taken, the adult could be suffering from some illness, malady or disease and in these cases, there can be some risk of harm in using cannabis.

Cannabis’s effects vary depending on its potency and its method of ingestion. In general, the peak effects of its use comes quickly and can last for hours. Smoking and topical use seem to have the quickest results and the longest duration.

Cannabis has demonstrated limited benefits for people with medical issues such as COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,] levodopa, symptoms of nausea from chemotherapy, neuropsychiatric dementia, and weight control.

Cannabis can have harmful effects in cases of withdrawal, with irritability, headaches, depression and more. Extensive use of the compound may result in some serious disorders in adults.

Dr. Watt’s approach to the use of cannabis
Dr. Watt believes patients need counseling by a professional if they wish to consider cannabis use. She advises that cannabis users not drive, use professionally regulated and produced cannabis and have regular and continuous monitoring by their physician.

Case studies follow-up
Mr. B saw significant pain reduction but no noticeable change to his dementia symptoms.

Ms. L describes that her pains have been very noticeably alleviated.

In summary
Dr. Watt notes that cannabis use in Canada is now legal. However, she emphasizes that their benefits are offset by the risks with their use. Hence, she recommends if an adult is considering its use, they should consult with their doctor.

[Full disclosure: I tried smoking marijuana over 40 years ago, 2 ‘joints’ and I was not impressed. I never did it again and I inhaled. Dr. Watt points out that ‘street marijuana’ is not regulated and using it may be dangerous. Legal cannabis is regulated by the government and its production is strictly controlled.]

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