| One-Minute Clinician

Marijuana and the Elderly Patient

Is this generation of older baby boomers self-medicating with marijuana, whether medical or recreational? Pain is common in the aging population. Elderly patients, trying to avoid prescription medications, may try marijuana.

What to consider:

  • Many of these patients have never used cannabis
  • Evidence of pain relieving is lacking
  • Potential dangers are being found
  • With medical marijuana, as always, start at a very low dose; educate patients so they don’t overdo


  • What might be fine for younger patients could affect the elderly differently: they might hallucinate and become psychotic
  • Older adults are often excluded from studies
  • Much of our data is from younger, healthier people
  • Much of our data is for single doses
  • We don’t know how repeated doses affect an older adult: 1 dose is easier to eliminate than 10, or 15, or multiple weeks’ worth

It is concerning. We want to make sure that if we are recommending cannabis to our older adults we’re doing it carefully. In Pennsylvania there are pharmacists in our dispensary. Patients are getting good counsel and a lot of follow up.

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