About three years ago, I developed severe fatigue and joint pain. I wasn’t sure what was going on – I thought maybe I’d just been working too much, working out too hard, and was too stressed out. Sleeping became a struggle. I tried to ride it out for a couple of months…to give whatever was going on some time to resolve on its own.
Then the knuckles in my right hand started to swell, and pain set in. I am right-handed, and could no longer do much with my right hand without a lot of pain. Lifting weights was out of the question – I couldn’t lift barbells or dumbbells at all. (You can read my full story here: I Tried CBD Oil For My Psoriatic Arthritis. Here’s What Happened.)
After a couple of months of suffering, I finally gave in and went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and was given prednisone, a powerful steroid drug, to reduce the inflammation. After I finished the prescription, the arthritis flare returned. I was put on another round of prednisone…and after I finished that round, the inflammation and pain returned again – with a vengeance. The doctor told me that it was time for me to see a rheumatologist and that I’d likely be put on methotrexate, a potent chemotherapy drug that comes with a long list of troubling side effects – including death.
There was no way I was going to take methotrexate. I decided to research safer options.
I had a Facebook friend who posted about CBD quite a bit – she makes custom blends in Colorado – so I reached out to her to see if she could help me. I ordered a bottle of CBD from her and within two days of use, my hand was back to normal. (The pain and inflammation have not returned since then…and it has been over three years.)
I started telling everyone about the wonders of CBD and how much it had helped me…including my mother, who suffers from a different type of arthritis and has had back pain for as long as I can remember. She’d been taking OTC pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and other medications for it for years without lasting relief. Chiropractic care has helped her a great deal, but she still had pain in some of her joints, with it being particularly bad in her feet.
So, I suggested she give CBD a try.
Our first conversation went something like this:
“Isn’t that POT?” she asked. “You want me to take drugs?”
“No, Mom – I am not suggesting you smoke weed or anything – although it would probably help you a lot too. CBD is made from hemp, a plant in the same family as marijuana.”
“Oh, there is NO WAY I am using that. I don’t like marijuana. Isn’t that going to get me high? I don’t want to get high. You kids and your pot…”
“Wait, Mom – CBD does NOT get you high. And there’s a lot of research that shows how beneficial it is and how it can really help people who have arthritis and chronic pain.”
“No, there is NO WAY I am going to try that, Lisa. Forget it.”
It took me about a year and a half to convince her to try CBD. Not surprisingly, she has had incredible results.
How did I get her to change her mind? Persistence, but without being too obnoxious about it. My father and I would talk about the benefits and the growing body of research that supports the use of CBD for the improvement of a variety of conditions. Over time, she became more open to hearing about the benefits and finally (reluctantly!) asked me to get her a bottle.
She has not stopped using CBD since. It has been incredibly helpful for her. And, now her sister – who also suffers from arthritis – takes it too, and is experiencing a lot less pain.
Before we continue, please read the following note:
It is important to understand that while hemp is a plant in the same family as marijuana, CBD sourced from hemp is no longer illegal at the federal level and is legal to use in most states (if you are concerned about the legality of CBD in your state, please check with your state’s guidelines). The CBD we refer to on this website is made with hemp.
If you have tried to talk to your parents or other elders you care for about CBD and have been met with skepticism or fear, the information in this article may help you overcome those obstacles. However, the information in this article should NOT be construed as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.
Now, let’s explore some reasons older adults might be hesitant to add CBD to their wellness plan.
Reasons some older people are nervous about CBD
Note: The terms “cannabis” and “marijuana” are used interchangeably in this article, but refer to the same plant – Cannabis sativa. The CBD we discuss on CBD Health and Wellness is made from hemp, a plant in the Cannabis family.
According to a recent study, cannabis use among older adults is growing faster than any other age group – but many report barriers to obtaining medical cannabis, including a lack of communication with their doctors and concerns surrounding the lingering stigma attached to the plant.
The study, the first to look at how older Americans use cannabis and the outcomes they experience, was published in the journal Drugs & Aging.
Here are some details from the study’s press release:
“Older Americans are using cannabis for a lot of different reasons,” said study co-author Hillary Lum, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “Some use it to manage pain while others use it for depression or anxiety.”
The 2016 National Survey of Drug Use and Health showed a ten-fold increase in cannabis use among adults over age 65.
The researchers set out to understand how older people perceived cannabis, how they used it and the positive and negative outcomes associated with it.
They conducted 17 focus groups in in senior centers, health clinics and cannabis dispensaries in 13 Colorado counties that included more than 136 people over the age of 60. Some were cannabis users, others were not.
Dr. Lum goes on to explain that the study found five major themes:
- A lack of research and education about cannabis
- A lack of provider communication about cannabis
- A lack of access to medical cannabis
- A lack of outcome information about cannabis use
- A reluctance to discuss cannabis use
Some older adults may feel self-conscious about asking a doctor for cannabis, Lum said. She said that points to a failure of communication between health care providers and their patients.
Study participants expressed similar thoughts:
“I think [doctors can] be a lot more open to learning about it and discussing it with their patients,” said one focus group respondent. “Because at this point I have told my primary care I was using it on my shoulder. And that was the end of the conversation. He didn’t want to know why, he didn’t want to know about effects, didn’t want to know about side effects, didn’t want to know anything.”
Some said their doctors were unable or unwilling to provide a certificate, the document needed to obtain medical marijuana. They also said physicians need to educate themselves on the latest cannabis research.
Some older users said they experienced positive outcomes when using cannabis for pain as opposed to taking highly addictive prescription opioids.
They often differentiated between using cannabis for medical reasons and using it recreationally.
“Although study participants discussed recreational cannabis more negatively than medical cannabis, they felt it was more comparable to drinking alcohol, often asserting a preference for recreational cannabis over the negative effects of alcohol,” the study said.
Despite the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and other states, some older adults still felt a stigma is attached to its use.
“Some participants, for example, referred to the movie `Reefer Madness’ (1936) and other anti-marijuana propaganda adverts that negatively framed cannabis as immoral and illegal,” the researchers said.
Speaking of Reefer Madness, later in this article, we will briefly discuss the history of cannabis prohibition and its enduring negative impacts on research, use, and public perception.
There is a lot of scientific research that shows the benefits of cannabis.
Unfortunately, Cannabis was unjustly illegal in the United States for decades – and hemp got swept up in the “reefer madness” propaganda campaign because it is in the same plant family.
This is especially tragic considering that humans appear to be hard-wired for cannabis use.
What do I mean by this? Well, humans (and many animals) have an endocannabinoid system, which is a biochemical communication system that plays many important roles in the body. It is responsible for the physical and psychological effects of cannabis.
Project CBD explains this system in more detail:
The discovery of receptors in the brain that respond pharmacologically to cannabis—and the subsequent identification of endogenous cannabinoid compounds in our own bodies that bind to these receptors—has significantly advanced our understanding of human biology, health, and disease.
It is an established scientific fact that cannabinoids and other components of cannabis can modulate many physiological systems in the human brain and body. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that trigger cannabinoid (and other) receptors.
There are cannabis scientists who believe that many of the health conditions people suffer are actually linked to something called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency.
Despite these scientific discoveries, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level (hemp is finally an exception). States are gradually legalizing or at least decriminalizing use of the cannabis plants, but regulation is still hindering access for many – and is stalling research efforts.
Cannabis has documented beneficial properties and uses, as evidenced by thousands of studies. It is one of the safest medicinal plants.
Why, then, have Cannabis plants been illegal for so long? Why is there still a stigma attached to their use?
Let’s take a look at the history of cannabis prohibition to get some answers.
Prohibition’s role in hindering access to medicinal cannabis
The War on Cannabis began way back in the late 1930s, as I explained in Prohibition, Politics, and Profit: The Truth About Cannabis and Why Government Wants to Control It.
The following is an excerpt from that article.
He was America’s first drug czar.
A staunch supporter of the criminalization of drugs, Anslinger played a pivotal role in cannabis prohibition. He campaigned and lobbied for passage of the Uniform State Narcotic Act in 1934, which was a revenue-producing act. The purpose of the act was to make the law uniform in various states with respect to controlling the sale, use, and regulation of narcotic drugs throughout all of the states.
When only nine states agreed to adopt the act, Anslinger launched a nationwide media campaign declaring that marijuana causes temporary insanity. The advertisements featured young people smoking marijuana and then behaving recklessly, committing crimes, killing themselves and others, or dying from marijuana use. The propaganda campaign was a success and all states signed on.
It is said that prior to the end of alcohol prohibition, Anslinger claimed that cannabis was not a problem, did not harm people, and “there is no more absurd fallacy” than the idea it makes people violent. His critics argue he shifted not due to objective evidence but due to the obsolescence of the Department of Prohibition he headed when alcohol prohibition ceased – seeking a new Prohibition. Of 30 leading scientists whose views he sought, 29 said cannabis did no harm. However, Anslinger chose to pursue only the views of the one who did.
In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act was passed. It effectively made possession or transfer of cannabis illegal throughout the U.S. under federal law through the imposition of an excise tax on all sales of hemp. It restricted possession to those who paid a steep tax for a limited set of medical and industrial uses.
Note: Although the spelling “marijuana” is more common in current usage, the actual spelling used in the Marihuana Tax Act is “marihuana.” It was the spelling most commonly used in Federal Government documents at the time.
New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was the only authoritative voice who opposed the act. In 1939, he organized the La Guardia Committee, which began the first in-depth study into the effects of smoking marijuana.
The group’s findings systematically contradicted claims made by the Anslinger that smoking marijuana resulted in insanity, deteriorates physical and mental health, assists in criminal behavior and juvenile delinquency, is physically addictive, and is a “gateway” drug to more dangerous drugs. Released in 1944, the committee’s report stated that “the practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.”
Anslinger was infuriated by the report, and he condemned it as unscientific. He denounced Mayor LaGuardia, the New York Academy of Medicine, and the doctors – who had worked on the research for more than five years. Anslinger said that they should not conduct more experiments or studies on cannabis without his personal permission.
The Marihuana Tax Act was overturned in 1969 in Leary v. United States, and was repealed by Congress the next year.
But that was just the beginning of what we now call the War on Drugs.
Congress replaced the act with the more comprehensive Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Scientific American explains what happened next:
Marijuana was placed in Schedule I in 1971 provisionally, until the science could be assessed. But President Richard Nixon saw pot prohibition as a way to destroy the antiwar left, according to clandestine recordings made by Nixon in the White House as well as statements from his staff to the press. Nixon convened The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (what became known as the Shafer Commission) to engineer scientific support for cannabis’s Schedule I placement. “I want a goddamn strong statement on marijuana,” Nixon said in tapes from 1971. “Can I get that out of this sonofabitching, uh, domestic council? … I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them.”
The Shafer Commission found in 1972 that cannabis was as safe as alcohol, and recommended ending prohibition in favor of a public health approach. But by then the Federal Bureau of Narcotics had been removed from the Treasury Department and merged into the U.S. Department of Justice—where Nixon’s ally, Attorney General John Mitchell, placed cannabis in Schedule I in 1972; that same year he resigned to head Nixon’s re-election committee. (He later stood trial in 1974 over the Watergate scandal and served 19 months of a prison sentence for conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice.] “You want to know what this was really all about?” Nixon aid John Ehrlichman told journalist Dan Baum in 1994, according to an article published in Harper’s Magazine in 2016. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
*end of excerpt*
The earliest recorded use of cannabis plants dates from the 3rd millennium BC. Despite its long history of use as a natural medicine, since the early 20th-century cannabis has been subject to legal restrictions. Possession, use, and sale of cannabis preparations containing psychoactive cannabinoids (THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol) are currently illegal in many parts of the world.
This has not been without tragic consequences.
The fear-mongering propaganda campaign against cannabis worked. It has been very difficult to undo the damage it caused.
The consequences of the War on Cannabis
Despite the U.S. government’s prohibition of the plant, scientists have continued to study it, and people have continued to use it for both recreational and medicinal purposes.
So far, the scientific study of cannabis has identified more than 113 unique, biologically active cannabinoids. A recent meta-analysis of these compounds shows well over a dozen therapeutic properties attributable to cannabinoids, including neuroprotective, anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, and anti-diabetic properties.
However, prohibition at the federal level has made research very difficult. There are several powerful special interests who profit from cannabis being restricted or illegal. (If you’d like to learn more about that, see Why EVERYONE Should Care About the Government’s War on Cannabis and Kratom.)
Thankfully, times are changing:
This year alone there have already been more than 50 legislative initiatives around the country aimed at legalizing or decriminalizing medical or recreational marijuana.
States that currently allow marijuana for medical use include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia – as well as the District of Columbia.
These states have legalized cannabis for recreational (and obviously, medical) use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington – as well as the District of Columbia.
The 17 states where marijuana is wholly illegal (as of August 9, 2019) are Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
It is important to understand that while hemp is a plant in the same family as marijuana, CBD sourced from hemp is no longer illegal at the federal level and is legal to use in most states (if you are concerned about the legality of CBD in your state, please check with your state’s guidelines).
Health care providers may not have answers to their patients’ questions about CBD.
Because cannabis was illegal for so long, and so many myths about the plant were perpetuated for decades, many health care providers were not taught about its benefits – or about the body’s endocannabinoid system – in school.
Some health care providers haven’t explored cannabis-related research and are simply not informed of the benefits. Others may still be biased against the use of the plant.
Poorly designed studies can also lead health care practitioners (and the public) to believe CBD might be dangerous, as Stacey Kerr, M.D., explains in Cannabis Science: What to Believe?
Here are some points to consider before talking to a health care provider about CBD.
Do not assume that your doctor is well-versed in the current medical cannabis literature or knows much about CBD. One way to find out his or her level of knowledge is to ask if he or she has attended continuing education programs or workshops about cannabis or CBD.
Get informed about CBD prior to mentioning it to your health care provider. This website – and the resources at Project CBD – can assist with that. And, so can referring one’s physician to PubMed, which is a scientific research database that is maintained by The United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. Go to the site and type in “cannabis”, “CBD”, or “cannabidiol” and you will be amazed by how many studies you’ll find.
Understand that there are different kinds of CBD. Learn more about them here: Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolates: CBD Differences, Explained
If you know someone else who is using CBD effectively, try mentioning their experience to your doctor. Or, mention articles and/or documentaries on the subject that you have viewed.
Because CBD oil is relatively new to Western medicine, it is unlikely to be your doctor’s first suggestion as a treatment. If you find yourself being persuaded toward pharmaceutical options but you’d prefer to try CBD, don’t be afraid to speak up and be clear that you are looking for more natural solutions.
It might feel intimidating to counter your doctor’s opinions and recommendations, but we are talking about your body and your health. Only you can decide which treatment option to pursue, and your doctor should be there to support you. Not every doctor shares the same worldview when it comes to what works best for their patients. If you disagree with your primary healthcare provider’s advice, you may want to seek a second opinion before you make any changes to your wellness plan.
CBD is very safe, but it may interfere with some medications.
CBD has an excellent safety profile that shows it is generally well-tolerated, even in very high doses. Side effects are very rare and transient when they do occur, typically lasting between four to six hours. At very high doses, CBD may cause appetite changes or drowsiness. It is not known to be addictive or habit-forming.
While very safe to take on its own, in certain instances CBD can interact with some medications. It may interfere with the way the body metabolizes certain prescription drugs in the liver. This interaction potentially reduces or increases the effectiveness of these medications over time. Project CBD explains:
CBD inhibits the cytochrome P450 enzyme, which is involved in metabolizing many drugs. Compounds in grapefruit inhibit the same enzyme group, which is why physicians advice patients not to eat grapefruit shortly before or after taking a medication. By inhibiting cytochrome P450, CBD can either reduce or increase the effects of other drugs. In some situations, it may be advisable for a physician to monitor a patient’s blood levels of other medications while taking CBD.
Talk to your doctor before adding CBD to your wellness plan if you are concurrently taking any prescription medications. Your doctor may need to monitor your individual response to the combination of CBD with your prescribed drugs and adjust your dose accordingly. In many cases, people are able to reduce or eliminate their use of prescription medications and replace them with CBD, but that is best done under the supervision of a health care provider.
So, there you have it! I hope this article clears up any questions you have about how to help older family members learn about CBD. If you have additional questions, please feel free to reach out to us using this form: Contact Us