Medical marijuana was safe and effective for improving symptoms such as pain, sleep disorders and anxiety due to chronic diseases in older adults, according to data that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting.
“With legalization in many states, medical marijuana has become a popular treatment option among people with chronic diseases and disorders, yet there is limited research, especially in older people,” Laszlo Mechtler, MD, from Dent Neurologic Institute, Buffalo, New York, said in a press release.
Mechtler and colleagues conducted a retrospective chart review to examine the efficacy and safety of medical marijuana in patients aged 75 years or older. The researchers enrolled 204 older patients (average age, 81 years) from the New York State Medical Marijuana Program.
For 4 months on average, participants took multiple ratios of the main active chemicals in medical marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to cannabidiol (CBD), by mouth as a liquid extract, capsule or in an electronic vaporizer. Participants received regular checkups in a neurologic outpatient setting.
Medical marijuana was safe and effective for improving symptoms such as pain, sleep disorders and anxiety due to chronic diseases in older adults.
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At first, 34% of patients reported adverse events from medical marijuana. After adjusting the dosage, adverse events only occurred in 21% of patients. Sleepiness (13%), balance problems (7%) and gastrointestinal disturbances (7%) were the most commonly reported adverse events. Adverse effects caused 3% of patients to discontinue use of medical marijuana. A formula that balanced THC and CBD 1:1 was most likely to result in no adverse events.
Most patients (69%) reported symptom relief, mainly in pain (49%), sleep (18%), neuropathy (15%) and anxiety (10%). Few patients (3%) experienced euphoria.
Treatment with medical marijuana reduced the need for opioid pain medication by 32%.
“Our findings are promising and can help fuel further research into medical marijuana as an additional option for this group of people who often have chronic conditions,” Mechtler said.
“Our findings show that medical marijuana is well-tolerated in people age 75 and older and may improve symptoms like chronic pain and anxiety,” he added. “Future research should focus on symptoms like sleepiness and balance problems, as well as efficacy and optimal dosing.” – by Alaina Tedesco
Bargnes V, et al. Safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in elderly patients: A retrospective review in a neurological outpatient setting. Presented at: American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting; May 4-10, 2019; Philadelphia.
Disclosures: The authors report that the study was funded by Dent Family Foundation.