A new Israeli study published in The European Journal of Internal Medicine shows that medical cannabis therapy significantly reduces chronic pain in patients age 65 and older without any major adverse effects.
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the Cannabis Clinical Research Institute at Soroka University Medical Center discovered that cannabis therapy is safe and effective for elderly patients who are seeking relief from symptoms of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other medical issues.
“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,” said Professor Victor Novack, M.D., from the BGU Faculty of Health Sciences (FOHS).
“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.”
People age 65 and older represent a growing segment of medical cannabis users, ranging from seven percent to more than 33 percent, depending on the country. Recent U.S. polls suggest that Americans over the age of 65 represent 14 percent of the total population and use more than 30 percent of all prescription drugs, including highly addictive painkillers.
For the study, the researchers surveyed 2,736 patients 65 years and older who had received medical cannabis through “Tikun Olam,” the largest Israeli medical cannabis supplier. More than 60 percent were prescribed medical cannabis to help relieve pain, particularly pain associated with cancer.
The findings show that, after six months of treatment, more than 93 percent of 901 participants reported their pain dropped from a median of eight to four on a 10-point scale. In addition, nearly 60 percent of patients who originally reported “bad” or “very bad” quality of life upgraded to “good” or “very good.” More than 70 percent of patients surveyed reported moderate to significant improvement in their condition.
After six months, more than 18 percent of patients surveyed had stopped using opioid analgesics or had reduced their dosage. The most commonly reported adverse effects of cannabis were dizziness (9.7 percent) and dry mouth (7.1 percent).
More than 33 percent of patients used cannabis-infused oil; approximately 24 percent inhaled therapy by smoking, and approximately six percent used vaporization. All patients in the study were given a prescription after consulting with a doctor who prescribed treatment.
According to the researchers, cannabis may decrease dependence on prescription medicines, including opioids, but they say that more evidence-based data from this special, aging population is needed.