As we age, our bodies undergo immense change. As years pass, the chances of developing a neurologic disorder increase substantially, as can symptoms of chronic or acute pain and trouble sleeping. Aging can be difficult on us both mentally and physically but recent research is focusing on alternative treatments and, thus, we are beginning to see more options in natural products.
Researchers at the Dent Neurologic Institute in Buffalo, New York are researching the potential benefits of cannabis on the symptoms of neurologic disorders in elderly patients. By conducting research on those 75 and older, investigators are hoping to further understand how cannabinoids work within the body to help with these types of disorders in this specific population.
From Parkinson’s disease to Alzheimer’s, cannabinoids have shown promise for use in older people.[1-2] While cannabinoids appear to be safe for this population, additional research concerning side effects is needed, especially with regard to neurologic disorders.
Researchers from the Dent Neurologic Institute conducted a study on medical cannabis and the elderly. Their results were presented at the 2019 American Academy for Neurology meeting. A retrospective chart review included 204 people aged 75 and older over the course of about four months of treatment.
Of the patients included, 69% people reported feeling overall relief, with many experiencing reduced chronic pain (49%), better sleep (18%), reduced neuropathy (15%), and lower anxiety (10%). Most interestingly, however, was that 32% reported a decrease in opioid use; 3% also experienced euphoria. Use of a 1:1 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to cannabidiol (CBD) oral tincture was most beneficial for improving symptoms.
It is important to note that 3% of the participants discontinued cannabis use due to adverse effects. While 34% of people experienced side effects initially, with adjusted, smaller doses, these resolved in 13%. The most common side effects were sleepiness, dizziness, and gastrointestinal problems.
While this is a retrospective review and not a clinical trial, these results are a great stepping stone into our journey of further understanding cannabis and its effects in older people. Future research by Dent Neurologic Institute researchers and others may help us better understand dosing, tolerability, and efficacy in this population.
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- Kindred, J.H., et al., “Cannabis Use in People with Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis: A Web-based Investigation”, Complement Ther Med, vol.33, 2017, pg. 99-104.
- Campbell, V.A. & Gowran, A.. “Alzheimer’s Disease; Taking the Edge Off with Cannabinoids?”, Br J Pharmacol, vol.152, no.5, 2007, pg. 655-662.
- Abuhasira, R., et al., “Epidemiological Characteristics, Safety and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis in the Elderly”, Eur J Intern Med, vol.49, 2018, pg. 44-50.
- Bargnes, V., et al., “Safety and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis in Elderly Patients: A Retrospective Review in a Neurological Outpatient Setting”, AAN 2019, Abstract P4.1-014.