Old age usually comes with painful pathologies, and changes in appetite, mood, and sleep patterns—symptoms that have been treated with pharmacological drugs for years, which entail several contraindications and side effects. It feels odd to see that people need hideously expensive medications that may also provoke adverse effects in a stage of life where we are the least productive and sometimes even facing a bad financial situation.
Cannabis and World Ageing
According to the World Health Organisation, old age is characterised by the outbreak of several complex health conditions that usually arise during the last stages of life. Additionally, the amount of people over 60 is estimated to nearly double from 2015 to 2050, rising from 12% to 22% of the world’s population, according to a WHO report issued in October 2021.
World ageing is also related to other life transitions such as retirement, relocation to more appropriate housing and the death of friends and partners, the report states. As a public health response against ageing, the WHO stresses that it is important not just to consider the factors that ameliorate the losses associated with older age, but also those that may reinforce recovery, adaptation, and psychosocial growth.
In this context, it is paramount to guarantee access to information, medications, and safe, high-quality treatment alternatives for the elderly. Cannabis arises as a solution against dissatisfaction and the accumulation of side effects for a group of people that knows little about cannabis, but more than they should about pain, pharmacological dependence, and healthcare bureaucracy.
Older Adults: More Weed, Less Pills
Doctor Nicolas Di Biase is a member of the recently formed Professional Network for the Study of Cannabis (known by its Spanish abbreviation, REPROCANN) and professor of “Uses of Medical Cannabis” at the National University of the South in Argentina. He shared a series of facts and suggestions for the elderly at Expocannabis 2021 regarding cannabis as a resource that supplements other treatments in order to reduce pharmaceutical drug use. Apart from this, Di Biase emphasised that those searching for medical cannabis nowadays end up buying fake derivatives. According to the expert, 1% of patients grow their own weed; the rest of them are unable, don’t know how or simply don’t want to, which exposes them to these threats. Doctor Di Biase claims that cannabis could be a non-pharmaceutical, groundbreaking tool for managing frequent and hardly treatable health problems arising during old age, such as chronic pain, insomnia, and loss of appetite.
One of the greatest hurdles to overcome relates to legislation, along with the stigma disseminated by counter-activists throughout the Americas for years. Authorising access to cannabis and its byproducts is the best strategy to encourage older adults to enjoy the benefits of this plant and lift the stigma that has driven patients away from the medical properties of cannabis for years.
For the time being, older adults in Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Puerto Rico are allowed to access cannabis through self- or cooperative cultivation—in all cases, only after registering with a state agency and receiving a medical diagnosis. On many occasions, older adults first approach cannabis because of their grandchildren; not because of doctors. Prejudice and lack of confidence exert a significant influence. Apart from this, knowledge, seeds and time are key to a successful harvest that allows producing quality byproducts. Safeguarding growers and guaranteeing seed sovereignty remain the Achilles’ heel in terms of legislation in these countries. Uruguay and Canada, in turn, are making progress in this sense, reporting outstanding results in curbing illegal trade, and releasing breakthrough findings on medical cannabis use for seniors.