| One-Minute Clinician

Marijuana and the Elderly Patient

Are 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
  • Clinical evidence of pain relief is inconclusive
  • There are potential dangers
  • 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 data is from younger, healthier people
  • Much data is for single doses
  • How do repeat doses affect an older adult? 1 dose is easier to eliminate than 10, or 15, or multiple weeks’ worth

It is concerning. If cannabis is being used by older adults, it must be done carefully. If there are pharmacists in the dispensary, patients must talk to them. Pharmacists offer advice and  follow up.

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