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Doctors Warn Seniors About Potency of Cannabis Products

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Doctors are warning seniors about the risks of using marijuana and CBD products, considering new data suggesting a spike in emergency room visits.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego said that ER visits involving people 65 and older who use cannabis has have increased 1,804% in the past 15 years. The researchers specifically looked at California residents. The Journal of American Geriatrics Society also suggests that in a survey of nearly 600 adults in the age range found that 15% reported using marijuana products in the last three years.

“There are a number of different situations where you could end up in the emergency department, because of a combination of cannabis and a medication or cannabis and another product,” said Dr. Lianne Hirano of the Geriatrics department at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. “If you are a first time user, or if you are somebody who is used to using products from the 60s and 70s, today's products are way more potent. Your body and your metabolism might not be used to that level of potency,” she said, “That can be quite scary.”

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Christine Bryant, of Hashtag Cannabis, is the marketing director for three stores in the region. She said that Hashtag has hosted educational seminars for seniors and guided shopping programs. Bryant said that most seniors are looking for help with sleep or pain, but even so, the THC-level in some products is substantially more than what a baby boomer may remember in the 1960s or 70s. 

“This is a different animal,” Bryant said bluntly.

© Provided by KOMO-TV Seattle

Bryant proudly showed off the vast array of products, and a case inside the Fremont store which is marketed to seniors. She said people are warned about the differences between an inhaled products and anything that is used as a topical.

“The difference is when using a topical, you're not going to feel the intoxicating effects of THC. But you will feel some of the anti-inflammatory effects that THC can provide for the skin barrier. That’s the difference with an oral (product), like a a gummy or a chocolate, something like that. Is this going to affect your whole system? You're going to process it through your liver, you're going to feel whole body effects,” she said.

© Provided by KOMO-TV Seattle

Jackie Roberts, of Seattle, knows the differences and said cannabis products have helped her, and her immediate family.

“I always look for alternative methods, no opioids, too many side effects, but medical marijuana, cream topicals. Even for bruises,” she said in between swings at the Amy Yee Tennis Center. Roberts said she helped get medicinal marijuana to prolong her late mother Dorothy and her late husband Melvin’s lives. She said they both were in intense pain, and at certain points late in life confined to a wheelchair.

“I made cookies. I make great homemade cookies,” she said, “Edible marijuana takes a longer time to be effective, sometimes 30 minutes an hour for to be effective.” She said it also helped Melvin sleep.

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But Roberts, 75, also is cautious about what is in any product and the differences between topicals and other medicinal marijuana.

“When I was in college, my friends and I, we smoked it, but now we wear it. And it works,” she said.

Hirano said anyone using blood thinners, or certain medications, should consult with their physician first.

“Cannabis can interact with a number of medications because of the specific enzyme in the liver that metabolizes the cannabis. It's a pretty common enzyme that a lot of medications are metabolized by and so because of that anti-depressants, anti anxiety medications, alcohol, when taken in combination with the cannabis products can all respond more potently,” said Hirano.

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Schedule16 Apr 2024