Cannabis in Canada – A Focus on Seniors

As the October 17 date for the legalization of marijuana in Canada creeps closer, more questions about how cannabis use will affect citizens are being raised and studied.  Seniors in particular, who may take several medications or have chronic health problems, need more information about how using marijuana may affect their well being.  Health Canada is funding research into this matter and new medical guidelines for cannabis use among seniors is anticipated to be released by the end of 2018.

According to a recent CBC News report, today’s marijuana is not the same as older adults may recall from their youth in the 1960s.   Research has found that cannabis in the ‘60s and ‘70s contained an estimated 6 to 8 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive agent in marijuana, while today’s strains have a potency between 20 and 30 percent.

Experts advise that although marijuana can help with anxiety, chronic pain, sleep disorders or symptoms of chronic illnesses like Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s, there are some side effects that could be dangerous for seniors.   Because cannabis use may interact with other prescription drugs or increase the risk of falls, it’s important for older adults to talk with their doctor before experimenting with pot.  Marijuana can also slow reaction times, hinder coordination and reduce the ability to pay attention making driving while using cannabis dangerous. 

Marijuana may help older adults replace opioid painkillers or sleeping pills, which could have significant health benefits.  But cannabis can also increase heart rate and has the potential to cause mental confusion among seniors.   There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the benefits and risks associated with marijuana use, especially for older adults who may process drugs differently than younger people.  To help answer some of the many questions about marijuana use, Health Canada plans to invest $100 million over six years in cannabis public education, awareness and surveillance.

For more information about cannabis in Canada, follow this link to Health Canada.