A new study from researchers affiliated with two midwestern universities has found that the medicinal use of cannabis improves the quality of life of seniors. A report on the research, “Assessing Health-Related Outcomes of Medical Cannabis Use among Older Persons: Findings from Colorado and Illinois,” was published this week in the journal Clinical Gerontologist.

To conduct the study, a team of researchers affiliated with the University of Illinois and the University of Iowa surveyed 139 seniors about their use of medical cannabis and self-reported changes in outcome over a period of one year. The researchers determined that the medicinal use of cannabis by those over the age of 60 showed a positive association in improvements in test subjects’ health-related quality of life (HRQL).

The study revealed a “strong positive association” between the frequency of cannabis use by test subjects and self-reported improvements in pain, health-care utilization, and overall health-related quality of life. The test subjects did not report a statistically significant association with the use of medical cannabis and adverse effects.

The authors of the research wrote that they had “identified a strong positive association between higher frequency of cannabis use and improvement to HRQL and HCU [health-care utilization] scores.”

More Pot Is Better

The investigators also noted that those participants who used medical cannabis most often experienced the greatest improvement to their health.

“Our regression modeling also identified a strong positive relationship between higher frequency of cannabis use and self-reported improvements to pain symptoms,” they continued. “The positive relationship between near-daily use and improved reports offers further evidence of the perceived value of medical cannabis as a therapeutic approach for pain management.”

Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said on Thursday that many aging Americans are opting to treat the aches and pains of getting older and other medical conditions with cannabis instead of more risky alternatives. A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine last year found that the rate of cannabis use by those 65 and older has risen dramatically and steadily since 2006.

“These results are hardly surprising,” Armentano said in a press release from the group that has advocated for cannabis policy reform since 1970. “Many seniors likely experimented first-hand with cannabis during their youth and are now returning to it as a potential therapy to mitigate many of the health-related symptoms that come with older age, including chronic pain. Many seniors are well aware of the litany of serious adverse side-effects associated with available prescription drugs, like opioids, and they perceive medical cannabis to be a viable alternative.”

Clinical Considerations

The authors of the study noted several clinical implications of their research, including a suggestion that clinicians recognize that “older adults who use cannabis for a medical purpose experience a range of outcomes both positive and negative.” They also wrote that clinicians should consider that these outcomes can be experienced together or separately.

“While cannabis use appears to improve a range of self-reported outcomes, patients may under-report negative effects and clinicians must be careful to include direct assessment of potential risks and harms for older adults using cannabis for a medical purpose,” they added.

Introduce Yourself: Name, Company, Goals