Back when baby boomers were in high school or college, marijuana was mostly about youthful experimentation. Now, medical marijuana gives cannabis new meaning for some older adults. In a growing number of states, people can use marijuana products to treat conditions such as chemotherapy side effects or certain types of pain.
Fibromyalgia has been a source of pain and disruption for Teri Robnett, 59, of Colorado. For 30 years, she’s coped with fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and irritable bowel issues. Over the years, she’s tried almost every treatment that traditional medicine has to offer, from ibuprofen to prescribed antidepressants and opioid painkillers like OxyContin. None really helped. Instead, alternative measures such as massage, acupuncture and herbal medicines provided some relief.
In 2009, Robnett began working in a marijuana dispensary. Although she had tried marijuana while much younger, she could take it or leave it for recreational use. Now, as she saw others turning to medical marijuana for conditions like hers, she received authorization to try it herself. “I feel so much better,” was her almost immediate reaction.
As early as the 1970s, marijuana was considered as a possible therapy for glaucoma, a common eye disease related to aging. However, it’s not practical as a glaucoma treatment, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Pain treatment is the most promising medical use for marijuana supported by data so far, says Margaret Haney, a professor of neurobiology in psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City who conducts cannabis research.
“There really is evidence that cannabis and cannabinoids, including synthetic cannabinoids, reduce pain,” Haney says. “What’s very exciting is there’s some suggestion that cannabinoids can be useful for a type of pain that isn’t well-treated by other drugs – neuropathic pain.”
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