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The Benefits and Difficulties for Seniors Seeking Legal Pot

Chloé Harper Gold

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The Benefits and Difficulties for Seniors Seeking Legal Pot

According to the experts, there are more seniors seeking legal pot than ever before. Due to the high frequency of illnesses, like cancer and chronic pain, among senior citizens, this might not come as a shock. But you might be left wondering: how easily can Grandma access ganja?

Seniors and Chronic Pain

A common health problem among elderly populations is chronic pain. This could be caused by any number of things. In seniors, pain management can prove to be a difficult task. Seventy-five percent of Americans, aged 65 or older, have chronic health problems, like diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, in addition to their pain. Ailments like these can make it harder for physicians to work with their patients to find a proper course of treatment for their pain.

And if there’s anything worse than chronic pain, it’s the under-treatment of chronic pain. This is especially true in senior populations.

In a 2010 study, 21 percent of elderly adults in residential care facilities experience under-treatment for chronic pain. This is partly due to difficulties in communication caused by linguistic and cognitive impairments, like Alzheimer’s disease and strokes.

Nevertheless, under-treating people who suffer chronic pain is a serious issue.

On the flip side, many doctors prescribe their senior patients opioid medications to manage their pain. While this may help in the short term, opioids can–and often do–cause a host of additional problems that may outweigh the benefits. Common issues stemming from opioid use include dependency and severe constipation. Opioid use also presents the risk of harmful interactions with other medication.

Pot’s Potential

So, let’s say you’re a senior with chronic pain. Opioids are harming you more than helping you. What are your options?

According to a study conducted at New York University, the fastest growing population of medical marijuana patients are elderly people. To put it into numbers, another study recorded that between 2012 and 2013, there was a 250 percent increase in medical cannabis patients aged 65 and older.

On the surface, this is great.

More seniors are receiving adequate healthcare. They are using natural cannabis to alleviate their pain, and they won’t need to worry about any potential drug interactions.

But there is still the issue of access.

For many elderly patients seeking medical cannabis, being able to go to a licensed dispensary can be a hardship. Especially if they live far away from one. For many, the distance means that they need to rely on their family members or others to provide transportation. Although some states allow dispensaries to deliver medication, not all do.

Another issue is paying for their medication.

Since the federal government still prohibits cannabis, neither Medicare nor Medicaid can cover it in their plans. They can’t even reimburse their clients for it. For seniors seeking legal pot, the financial burden often makes accessing cannabis even harder.

Final Hit: The Benefits and Difficulties for Seniors Seeking Legal Pot

When it comes down to it, cannabis absolutely benefits elderly populations. It’s nonaddictive. Patients can take it in a variety of forms. It won’t negatively interact with other medications. But the fact is, seniors seeking legal pot often face similar roadblocks that other populations do. Namely, access and cost. One way to solve this issue and assist elderly patients would be to make medical cannabis more accessible and affordable. Or, you know, just completely legalize it, so that insurance companies can cover it.

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