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Elderly people in Seattle are swapping opioids for cannabis to treat pain

Medical cannabis treatment significantly relieves pain and improves quality of life for seniors with minimal side effects reported

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Elderly people in Seattle are swapping opioids for cannabis to treat pain

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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Cannabis or opioids?

For many former opioid users, the green plant is shaping up to be a safer alternative to common opiate-based painkillers, such as codeine, fentanyl, and hydrocodone.

Pain relief is one of the most common reasons for using opioids, which have been known to cause dependence, addiction, and unwanted side effects. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 30 percent of the U.S. population suffers from chronic pain. Among older adults in the U.S., the prevalence of chronic pain exceeds 40 percent.

When doctors began prescribing addictive painkillers to patients in 1990 under false pretenses that the medication was non-addictive, an opioid epidemic erupted. Washington State Department of Health claims that two people in Washington lose their lives every single day as a result of opioid misuse/overdose.

It’s not just the younger generation getting caught up in America’s opioid epidemic. A whopping 55 percent of the people who received opioid prescriptions in the U.S. back in 2013 were seniors. What’s more, there has been a significant rise in drug-related emergency room visits among seniors over the last few years.

Seattle is the most cannabis-friendly municipality in Washington to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of people aged 65 and older in the U.S. who use cannabis rose from 0.2 percent to 2.1 percent between 2002 and 2014.

Since the “Emerald City” is a cannabis-friendly municipality, it’s not surprising that the elderly population are making appointments with their healthcare practitioner. 

This is an essential step in the process to obtaining a medical cannabis recommendation. Residents of Washington must first qualify in accordance with Washington state law, which permits local governments to develop their own medical cannabis regulations.

If a health practitioner thinks that the elderly individual could benefit from medical cannabis in Seattle, an authorization form will be completed. This form is necessary to obtain cannabis-based medicines.

Elderly patients are replacing opioid pain relievers with medical cannabis in Seattle

Seniors in Seattle, such as 80-year-old Connie Schick, are switching their opiate-based medications for cannabis-based pain-relievers.

Image result for old people smoking weedAfter suffering from a stroke, Schick began using opioid painkillers, only to discover that the medication was addictive and caused stomach discomfort. Now, she uses a cannabis-based cream containing the plant’s non-psychoactive compound, CBD (cannabidiol).

“Quite frankly, I do what I want to do anyway,” she beamed. “I don’t care what the reaction is.”

Schick isn’t the only elderly medical cannabis patient in Seattle. 

Sasha Ogilvie is the sister of DeepCell Industries’ CEO, Kelly Ogilvie. He acknowledges the positive effects that CBD is having on his elderly sister, who endures epileptic seizures.

So severe were her seizures in the past that she damaged her knees and dislocated her shoulder. In an attempt to ease her pain, Sasha started using (and became dependent on) opioid painkillers. Thankfully, CBD changed her life.

“My sister is proof of the effect it can have, so it’s personal for me,” Oglivie explained.

Aside from relieving the symptoms of chronic pain, CBD helped Sasha to reduce her dosage. She has now lived without seizures for 10 years. Better yet, it is not possible to overdose on CBD.

“I can’t believe this works better than what the doctors had prescribed for me,” Sasha said.

Medical cannabis in Seattle could be safer for pain-suffering elderly patients than opioids

So, where’s the proof that cannabis can help the elderly to overcome opioid addiction?

Well, researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the Cannabis Clinical Research Institute at Soroka University Medical Center say that medicinal-grade cannabis can greatly reduce pain in elderly patients aged 65 and above, minus the unpleasurable side effects often associated with opiates.

The researchers published their findings in The European Journal of Internal Medicine. It demonstrated the plant’s potential for patients wishing to treat medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis (MS), to name a few.

“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,” says the head of the Soroka Cannabis Clinical Research Institute and professor at BGU Faculty of Health Sciences (FOHS), Victor Novack.

“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,” added the professor of internal medicine.

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Elderly people in Seattle are swapping opioids for cannabis to treat pain