The new research published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine also reported that after six months more than 18 percent of patients surveyed had either reduced or discontinued their use of opioid pain medications.
Medical cannabis, or medical marijuana,is cannabis and cannabinoids that are recommended by doctors for their patients. The Cannabis plant has a history of medicinal use dating back thousands of years across many cultures.
Medical cannabis can be administered using a variety of methods, including liquid tinctures, vaporizing or smoking dried buds, eating cannabis edibles, taking capsules, using lozenges, dermal patches,or oral/dermal sprays. Synthetic cannabinoids are available as prescription drugs in some countries; examples include: dronabinol and nabilone.Recreational use of cannabis is illegal in most parts of the world, but the medical use of cannabis is legal in a number of countries, some of which include Canada, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands,Poland, Peru, and Uruguay.
At present the use of medical cannabis has grown significantly in recent years. Because of an aging population, the use has increased in older people in particular.
“While older patients represent a large and growing population of medical cannabis users, few studies have addressed how it affects this particular group, which also suffers from dementia, frequent falls, mobility problems, and hearing and visual impairments,” Dr. Victor Novack, a professor in the Ben Gurion University Faculty of Health Sciences in Israel, said in a press release.
This prompted a Ben Gurion team to look at whom among the elderly use medical cannabis and whether it is safe and effective for them. Novack is also head of the Soroka Cannabis Clinical Research Institute.
94 percent of the patient reported an improvement in their condition
The new study, “Epidemiological characteristics,safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in the elderly,” involved 2,736patients 65 years or older. They had received medical cannabis through Tikun Olam, Israel’s largest medical cannabis supplier, between January 2015 and October 2017.
The scientist team asked patients whether the cannabis had reduced their pain and improved their quality of life. They also asked if it had led to any adverse events at six months.
The mean age of those who answered the questionnaire was 74.5 years. Sixty-seven percent said they used cannabis to relieve pain. Sixty-one percent said their treatment was related to cancer.
Surprisingly, after six months of treatment, 94percent of the respondents reported an improvement in their condition. A key finding was that their pain level had dropped in half, according to a scale used to measure it.
After the end of six months, 18 percent had either reduced or discontinued their use of opioids for pain. Because opioids can have long-term consequences, including addiction, this was a good sign,researchers said.
In terms of safety, patients’ most common adverse events were dizziness, which occurred in 10 percent, and dry mouth, in 7percent.
Therapeutic use of cannabis is safe in the elderly population
“After monitoring patients 65 and older for six months, we found medical cannabis treatment significantly relieves pain and improves quality of life for seniors with minimal side effects reported,”Novack said.
This prompted the researchers to write that “our study finds that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and efficacious in the elderly population.”
In addition, “cannabis use may decrease the use of other prescription medicines, including opioids,” they wrote.
They called for research based on clinical trials rather than just questionnaires.