I grew up in the 70’s with my father who was constantly getting high on marijuana and spending all the monies he had on weed. My mother would crochet and make crafts just to put food on the table, handmade our clothes and did what she had to do just so we could survive. She even went barefoot so that my sister and I could have shoes on our feet. My father was irresponsible in every sense of the word. I had no respect for him and for always putting his marijuana first. I had so much hurt and anger inside of me, that I would deliberately search the house and garage for his stash and misplace his drugs on purpose. When I was eleven years old, I got the courage to flush a gallon bag of his marijuana down the toilet.
As a young girl, and later as a young woman, I could never see the positives in marijuana because most of my life, all I had seen was the negative effects it had–until now. I did some research and realized that I was misinformed about marijuana and that the “Reefer Madness” mentality I had all along was wrong. I saw that it was not just being used as a recreational drug, but that this wonderful plant had so many useful benefits!
I was being told by friends, family members, and even co-workers about their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even their siblings taking cannabis in some form to help with their chronic illnesses, pain, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and to help ease the side effects of chemotherapy. I spent hours reading through articles and watching documentaries. I became dumbfounded but yet so very excited about the positive benefits that Cannabis provided. Cannabis has become a safe alternative drug that has been treating and curing people of all ages– from children to the elderly — who have a variety of illnesses and disorders such as sleeping disorders, eating conditions, skin problems, seizures, and cancer.
Cannabis has been being used by man for centuries. Dating back to 2000BC, the Chinese have used cannabis as an anti-inflammatory to help with rheumatoid arthritis. In western medicine, as early as the 1700’s, it was used as a way to treat musclo-skeletal pain, and, in folk medicine, it was used as a remedy for cancerous ulcers and tumors.
There are different strains of marijuana and each has a special use. There is the indica strain which helps with sleeping problems, pain and provides a feeling of calmness. The sativa strain infuses one’s body with energy and helps stimulate appetite. There are many ways of taking marijuana besides smoking it. It comes as tincture with drops which are placed under the tongue, comes as an ointment or cream for arthritis, can be baked in foods such as cookies, muffins, and brownies, as oil for the control of seizures, and in so many more useful ways.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), from 2002-2008, the number of those using marijuana tripled among those aged 55 to 59 years old. Young people are no longer the primary ones using marijuana; it is now the baby boomers who are retiring from work, encountering the aches and pains of old age, and remembering the beneficial qualities of marijuana use. There are so many elderly who are taking prescription medications with the resulting side effects such as nausea, seizures, and emotional problems. Some senior citizens are being overmedicated due to their physicians prescribing them additional drugs to help with the side effects of their initial prescriptions. But now, doctors, advocates, and the elderly themselves have discovered the wonders of cannabis and what it can do. They are no longer feeling sick and tired and have realized that they can get by with fewer medications or with no narcotics use at all. Cannabis is helping seniors to cope with ailments such as the following:
- Reduced appetite
- Low energy
- Mental confusion
- Pain associated with inflammation of joints and stiffness of limbs
- Agitation from degenerative and/or dementia related diseases
Dr. Robert Melamede, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, testified as an expert witness in a Canadian court that the cannabinoids in marijuana “staves off inflammation and delays the onset of auto-immune diseases, inhibits the formation of Alzheimer’s disease and can help treat or even cure some types of cancer. Cannabinoids have curative or at least palliative properties.” He also stated that cannabis is safer than aspirin and it restores balance in our bodies to help fight illnesses.
Israeli professors Raphael Mechoulam and Yechiel Gaoni worked with THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, and what it was capable of doing in the health support of senior citizens. These researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel decided to do a study with 19 residents from the Hadarim Nursing Home.
The residents ranged in age from 69 to 101 years old and all were suffering from different chronic ailments such as chronic pain, muscle spasms, loss of appetite, and tremors. In this study, they all were treated with medical cannabis in various forms of vapor, powder, oil, and smoke three times a day for a year. Staff from the nursing home and the researchers monitored them for signs of improvement in their conditions and for their quality of life. 17 patients achieved and/or maintained a healthy weight, reduced their muscle spasms, tremors, pain and stiffness in their joints. Almost all of the patients who used cannabis actually slept longer and better. Those who had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found cannabis use helped with reducing their flashbacks and nightmares. Researchers also noticed that there was a decline in both the number and dosage of some of the prescribed medications patients were taking including pain relievers, mood stabilizers, and anti-psychotics. 72 % of the patients ended up reducing their medication intake by an average of 1.7 meds per day.
To sum it all up, cannabis (marijuana) has so many useful benefits for mankind. It seems so unfair that the elderly and sick that are in nursing homes and hospitals, are being prohibited from using cannabis to relieve their ailments and suffering. This is due to fear. Fear of facilities losing federal funds, fear of judgment and stigma of allowing cannabis use among the elderly, and on the federal level with it being illegal. According to worldwide research, there are indications that further experimental opportunities should be more available with targeted populations including the terminally ill, those with chronic or intractable conditions, and the elderly. These groups are likely to show the most benefits from cannabis use, but who also have the fewest alternative options available and least options for misuse. There are currently marijuana advocates that are trying to get marijuana classified as a Schedule 1 drug so it can be used to help those in need. It would be wonderful to see more doctors, hospitals, nursing home organizations, and our federal government to give patients the choice to have medical marijuana as an option– just like any other medication.
Bio: The above is a guest post by Brenda Abbott, Executive Assistant at Saint Jude Retreats, an alternative to traditional substance use treatment. Saint Jude Retreats provides a program for people with substance use problems that concentrates on self-directed positive and permanent change. Through the program, we offer the opportunity for individuals to self-evaluate and explore avenues for life enhancement.
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