Elders and Extreme Heat

Elders and Cannabis Use

A growing number of elders in the United States, including me, are using cannabis to treat their old age ailments.

For more than a decade, I couldn't sleep longer than three or four hours a night. After I woke, I'd lie in bed for a few hours, but I never fell into a real sleep again that night.

Once a week or so, survival (I'm guessing) kicked in and I'd manage a marathon sleep of six or seven hours before reverting to three or four hours.

When, two years ago, I had recovered enough from the pancreatic cancer surgery that my “normal” sleep pattern returned, I was concerned that without more sleep, my health would suffer while I try to live with this cancer predicament.

Over-the-counter potions have never worked for me and I didn't want prescription opioids. In the hospital, I had been given fentanyl for three days following my 12-hour cancer surgery and I learned then how insidiously wonderful it is. I understand completely how people get hooked.

Fortunately, I live in a state, Oregon, where both medical and recreational cannabis is legal. Dispensaries are scattered around the Portland area at about the same ratio as pharmacies and are easy to find. They are run by friendly, knowledgeable people.

While I was shopping for cannabis recently, a “budmaster” told me that most of the dispensary's customers are old people and the available research seems to bear that out.

Here is a statista.com chart showing registered users of cannabis in Oregon by age as of April of 2019. Of course, “registered” is moot now that recreational use is also legal so this is not an entirely accurate picture of elder cannabis use:


If you add up all the users age 60 and older, just over 35 percent of are using cannabis.

Last fall, NPR reported on a free, regularly scheduled bus that takes elders to a local dispensary. Ninety-year-old Shirley Avedon uses cannabis to treat her carpal tunnel syndrome:

"'It's very painful; sometimes I can't even open my hand,' Avedon says.

“So for the second time in two months, she has climbed aboard a bus that provides seniors at the Laguna Woods Village retirement community in Orange County, Calif., with a free shuttle to a nearby marijuana dispensary.

“The retired manager of an oncology office says she's seeking the same relief she saw cancer patients get from smoking marijuana 25 years ago.

"'At that time (marijuana) wasn't legal, so they used to get it off their children,' she says with a laugh. 'It was fantastic what it did for them.'”

Some physicians are supportive of elders' cannabis use, others not so much mostly, it seems, because there is so little research due to the federal government's designation of it as a Schedule 1 drug. NPR again:

”The limited research that exists suggests that marijuana may be helpful in treating pain and nausea, according to a research overview published last year by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Less conclusive research points to it helping with sleep problems and anxiety.

“Dr. David Reuben, Archstone professor of medicine and geriatrics at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, says he sees a growing number of patients interested in using it for things like anxiety, chronic pain and depression.

"'I am, in general, fairly supportive of this because these are conditions (for which) there aren't good alternatives,' he says.”

A lot of elders report that their doctors are uninformed about the medical uses of marijuana and they, the patients, feel uncomfortable asking for a card in the states where only medical marijuana is legal.

Earlier this month, MSN.com reported:

”More and more older people are turning to cannabis for their ailments, because it can soothe the symptoms of problems like arthritis, Parkinson's, and chronic pain...

“A new study suggests that the number of people using marijuana is increasing faster for those aged over 65 than for any other age group, but they come up against many barriers when trying to access it.”

I'm fortunate that my doctors are knowledgeable and informative about patients' use of cannabis and we can discuss it openly. We also keep it on my list of medications so that when they are changed, we remember to check how the cannabis might interact with my other drugs.

It amuses me that something my friends and I saw as “cool” and rebellious when we started smoking pot in our teen years is now cool in a whole new way for us oldest folks.

One difference is that the largest number of elders to whom I've chatted with about cannabis tell me, “Oh, but I wouldn't want to get high.”

Really? I think it's fun to get high and listen to music now and then. But if that's not your thing, there are plenty of CBD products that treat a variety of ailments without the psychedelic effect.

I bring all this up because there are now 30 U.S. states that allow medical and/or recreational use of cannabis, and I wonder what your experience with and thoughts are about it – particularly since many of us elders seem to be taking to it with eagerness.

And god knows, it's cheaper than a lot of prescription drugs.

(Feel free to use an alias in the comments if you don't want others to know your name.)


I use CBD oil nightly, and also CBD cream for spinal stenosis in my neck. It takes the edge off, and I sleep better, improving well being and mental acuity to a substantial degree. I've given CBD to some of my more conservative friends who found it remarkable for pre and post operative pain, as well. I'm amazed that this has taken so long, and that the FDA isn't jumping all over this in regards to integrating it into prescriptive health care in a way that removes the stigma. Amazed also that my elderly neighbor has been prescribed hundreds of vicodin's over the years, so toxic to the brain and body...she takes it for sleep! (Recently, sadly, this smart, capable woman was diagnosed with early stage dementia). Oh, and I forgot to mention that after my dog's ACL surgery, she took CBD for a year along with her physical therapy.

As a nearly 77 year who has used Cannabis for both insomnia and severe pain for over 5 years, I can attest to its' efficacy. I was so impressed with my results I did a lot of research and found a doctor who is an expert in the field of Medical Cannabis and took his Cannabis course so I could become a Healer Certified Medical Cannabis Wellness Advisor. I achieved that goal in April and am giving my first class tomorrow! I want to help others be educated about the health benefits and risks of cannabis use as well as help them create their own plan for using cannabis. While I live in a medically legal state, there are very few Doctors who know how to use it and many are even against it. While CBD is a very useful product by itself, it's even more efficacious if used with small amounts of THC, which has been proven to increase the positive effects of CBD. Any CBD with a THC content over 0.3% would be considered cannabis and, unless one is one of the 33 states where medical and/or recreational cannabis is legal, would not be available legally.

I'm a cannabis user and periodically write about my experiences. I live in California, where recreational cannabis is legal, although one needs a medical recommendation to visit dispensaries in my county. I'm a two-time cancer survivor and use cannabis in various forms to treat post-mastectomy pain, other creaky body parts, insomnia and anxiety. I make my own cannabis cream and tincture. Oh, and sometimes I vape it just for fun. I actually have not tried CBD alone, as I agree with Taru -- there's an entourage effect from the whole plant, which includes both CBD and THC.

I, too, use cannabis for sleep and use a vaporizer. I want the buzz to get past pain trying to relax and to sleep. It's pretty fast but have to admit I'm not the sharpest pin in the cushion if I'm called to be functional right away. I don't care. It's worth it for a full night's sleep even if I wake during the night.

Ronni, my husband read an article in the last couple days that a recent study said marijuana vaping can actually help breathing in elders because we open our lungs deeper. He can't remember where it popped up, but I do expand my lungs farther and longer. Exercise to expand our lungs is what they taught us to do in music way back in school.

I first used cannabis as a college student in 1960.
I was introverted. Not able to be social. That was before being introverted was understood..my parents always said “she’s shy, she’ll grow out of it”.

I’m still introverted.

But cannabis helped me self medicate, before that was even a thing.

I’ve used cannabis fairly regularly since I was 19.

Now I use it for chronic pain after 25 years on prescribed opiates. I detoxed myself off opiates with help from both CBD and THC.

I firmly believe many who are on opiates would do the same thing if cannabis were legal for them. Like Ronni, I fortunately live in Oregon.

Cannabis is a real lifesaver for many seniors.

Marijuana is medically legal only where I live. However, the costs to obtain a card and purchase products are prohibitively expensive for me on my Social Security-only income. Also, I rent an apartment. My management company advised me that my lease prohibits the use of marijuana on site; they adhere to federal law. So even if I could afford marijuana, I would face eviction if found to be using it in my apartment or on the building site. How sad this is, for this is a senior apartment complex, and there are MANY people who could benefit.

I've never tried marijuana. Never wanted to. But with edibles now available (I've never smoked), I might try it if I had chronic pain. I already have prescriptions for sleep and anxiety.

I enjoyed the "Summer of Love" intensely and thoroughly during 1967. I then used weed
until the early 70's thinking it was soon to be adopted by mainstream America and legalized.
I stopped and waited. Served 21 years in the military with its restrictions. Now, about 50
years after I stopped, mainstream America is adopting wholeheartedly what we endorsed
way back then. I only rarely use now; of course it is legal in Washington state. I still maintain that legal grass is far better than alcohol. The only drawback with the current zeal is the fact that we still cannot grow this stuff ourselves. After all, it's called weed for a reason.

I've "come out" as a cannabis user on this blog before and strongly support research on the use of this herb which has been around for centuries. The federal government needs to decriminalize cannabis to allow this research to progress, but I'm cognizant that it will not happen under the current administration. Another reason to vote Democrat or Independant.

Like Ronni, I use it to allow me more than 4 hours of sleep. Two tokes before bed and and I can sleep for 6-7 hours nightly. I also use it to quell my anxiety, for which I took prescription drugs for years. I much prefer this natural remedy to putting chemicals in my body.

I also used marijuana recreationally beginning in the 60's, but stopped using it as I raised children and concentrated on developing a career. Now that I'm retired, I no longer have those concerns, and enjoy getting high, either alone or with friends. It gives me a zen-like feeling that allows me to be introspective and explorative of my thoughts and feelings.

I live in California where an individual can grow up to 6 plants (which is a lot of pot!). I live in a 55+ community and there are 3 of us that I know of that grow our own cannabis. I have a small back patio and grow my plants in 15 gallon pots. I have grown cannabis for my own use for 5 years and am just about to start my 6th growing season. I have always grown only one plant, which gives me enough product to last me a year. My income does not allow me to afford to go to a dispensary to purchase cannabis on a regular basis. This year I am growing two plants because I have been experimenting with making my own edibles, which use a good amount of cannabis.

My husband, who has a progressive, degenerative neurological condition, along with the effects of a traumatic brain injury following a fall and subsequent brain surgery, responds well to edibles and not so well to smoking it. He doesn't use cannabis as often as I do, but it helps calm him when he's having a particularly tough day.

I understand the reluctance of those who have never tried cannabis, but as knowledge grows regarding its benefits, I think the fear and nervousness will dissipate.

Well, living in Dixie, not likely to be legal in any form here (though there is buzz about medical use). At any rate, after the crackdown on opiates (legal pain pill prescriptions) when I pass my local ABC (state liquor store) it looks like a senior citizens convention. No kidding. Some are using canes, even saw one with a walker! Weed would surely be an improvement, methinks. Sigh.

Certainly, I'd be game. And I did use it once, long ago. Just never had access since, and too worried about legal consequences.

These are my personal experiences. I starting using CBD oil when I was diagnosed with IBS that came with strong gut spasms. I'd read about it being used for epilepsy and decided that maybe it would help and it has., like stops them in 2-3 days. Not just in my gut but for a number of twitches and spasms I've had the last couple of years after a fall involving a nasty thump on the skull.

I did tell my doctor about it and she said she didn't know anything about it and couldn't advise. I also have "mild" RA and it helps with the pain and inflammation. I have lung disease and allergies to many chemicals including some prescription meds but I've had no problems with the CBD oil. I sleep well anyway.

I live in Washington next the Oregon border. It's not a problem to get. I got the first batch from a dispensary in Portland that came highly recommended by a friend's oncologist. It's pricey for my budget but it keeps me from having to take ibuprofen or aspirin for inflammation and pain.

Whew, there's some good info here! I've just started to use CBD for sleeping. Seems to be helping, but wouldn't swear to anything this early in the game. I loved weed for many years, it enhanced music, dancing, whatever. In my late sixties, I still enjoyed it, but the high lasted way longer, then I couldn't sleep, then a two day hangover. Now, I'm talking about one toke! I know the strength has been ramped up..............the old mistaken idea that more is always better. I love that we're slowly coming back to the original use of cannabis hundreds (thousands?) of years ago, when it was given for healing purposes.

In hospice in Toronto where it is newly legal... had talk with doctors here. They said patients seem to get the most benefit if they had used recreationally earlier in life. Those like me who did not experiment tend not to like the effect when they do try it now. But it is early days, here, and not much data.

I'm 67. I use CBD along with Tylenol for pain. Works really well. I would love to get some really old type low THC cannabis that I remember from the 60s but it seems to be bred out of existence. Salinda is right, more is not always better. I haven't tried any pot in over 35 years but will be visiting a dispensary in a neighboring state where it's legal for recreation very soon. Looking forward to giving it a try.

I recently went to the doctor and found out that I had a large kidney stone. "You must have a pretty high tolerance for pain," he mused. "This should be hurting you," he added.

I had been feeling some discomfort in my lower back for some time, but it was really no big deal, so I ignored it. The discovery of the stone was made on a visit to the doctor for something completely unrelated.

After reading your article, I have come to the realization that my "pretty high tolerance for pain" was probably the medicinal effect of the weed that I smoke almost daily. I'm going to have the stone removed, but the experience has given me cause to explore CBD oil as a pain reliever.

Ronnie, are you able to smoke it (re. your lung troubles)?
I can't smoke and find it difficult to find a reliable way to use it. Also, do you use the green leafy Cannabis or the dark concentrated marijuana?

I used marijuana recreationally in my 20s and 30s but kind of drifted away from it as my career took more and more of my time. I live in a state where it has recently been legalized for medical use only but there is a pretty tight list of medical diagnoses that qualify a person to get a prescription. I have a lot of arthritis and would love to be able to use it for pain relief, but despite all the buzz of how helpful weed is for arthritis, it's not on the list. I've been buying CBD lotion for arthritis, and my doctor was encouraging about it when I discussed it with him.

Until cannabis is recognized by the U.S. government as a legitimate drug and legalizes it, doctors will still be hesitant to prescribe it and Medicare certainly won't pay for it. This is another reason why seniors should come out en mass in 2020 and vote the current administration (whose heads are firmly buried in the 19th century) out.

Adie van der Veen...

No, I definitely do not smoke weed. Some (currently) small amount of cancer is in one lung so smoking is out of the question. (It would be even without the lung cancer.)

I use a variety of edibles, switching out one to another every few days because the effect declines if I stick with the same product. So, sometimes gummies, tinctures, candies. It all works.

I think I'd like to try it again despite a negative experience with ingesting too much last year (I felt WAY out of control for several hours). I can't ask my doc for advice, however, since I'd get kicked off my "pain management program" immediately and denied the low dose of a mild opiate I'm currently allowed for increasingly debilitating back and neck pain.

If I could find a reliable dispensary to advise on appropriate dosage, I'd seriously consider giving it another go. I know I can't request stronger pain medication (and would rather not anyway), even though my underlying medical conditions--degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, scoliosis and residual damage from 3 previous back surgeries--have continued to progress. Pain often interferes with my sleep and has robbed life of much joy. Weed is legal in my state; tincture or edible forms could be the answer.

If anyone is having difficulty figuring some things out due to lack of knowledge, I can offer two of you 30-minutes of my time at -0- cost. I studied this so I can help people, not to get rich. I will have to limit this to two people at this time as I am building my business locally and it takes lots of time and energy. I am not selling anything; I don't think it's ethical. I'm not clear how you could reach out to me through Ronnie's blog, but perhaps she'll have some ideas.

I suffer/ed from stress related insomnia and body pain.
Since I don't want to smoke, I experiment and make weed cookies ( not brownies or anything that tastes too good :)
The quantities change with me so I don't have a real recipe to share but almost always includes coconut oil, raw oats, sesame seeds, eggs and a mashed banana.
Its important to heat the cannabis first- close wrap it in tin foil on low heat in a toaster for at least 20 minutes. You will smell the aroma from this toasting.
Then I crumble the weed and take out sticks etc, add coconut oil and heat that in a microwave for 60 seconds.
Mix your other cookie ingredients and then add the cannabis infused oil.
Mix really well otherwise you will have some results without any effect and some with too strong an effect.

Bake, cool, refrigerate.
this has really helped me with my sleep but sometimes, I do feel a bit tired in the am.
Alternately, I have just started TM meditation and am amazed at how rested I feel in the morning. I m still using my cookies but less.
Hoping to wean myself and save the cookies for special occasions.

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