Colorado study: Elders and marijuana

Plenty of patients in a poll of people 65 and older in the Colorado found marijuana effective for pain, a geriatric medicine practitioner said.

“This is just a questionnaire, consequently drawing conclusions about the benefits of marijuana use are limited,” said Gretchen Orosz, a physician in geriatric medicine in the University of Colorado’s UCHealth Primary Care Clinic.

The survey,”Characteristics and Patterns of Marijuana Usage in Community-Dwelling Elderly Adults,” was published Oct. 6 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.  The survey was anonymous and conducted with 345 people.

One of findings, based to onlinelibrary.wiley.com:

  • Many 113 people, or 32 percent, had used marijuana earlier.
  • Of that 113, 55, or 16 percent, had used marijuana since legalization at Colorado.
  • More than half of consumers were 75 or older.
  • A quarter of current users were 85 as well as older.
  • Most current users were white women.
  • Of current customers, 44 percent use marijuana products at least weekly for chronic pain, depression, anxiety and insomnia, and many discovered marijuana useful.
  • Most respondents obtained marijuana recreationally instead of by prescription.
  • Nine respondents reported negative side effects brought on by marijuana use. Side effects included lack of balance, nausea, blurred vision and anxiety and racing thoughts, Orosz said.

Orosz participated Oct. 29 in a question-and-answer session regarding the Colorado survey by email with The Republican.

Q: Why would you do the study?

A: We did the study because, after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use (in 2014), we’d been receiving anecdotal reports of use by patients in our clinic. We wanted to obtain a better understanding of how many of our patients were actually utilizing, why they were using and exactly what effects/side impacts they might have undergone.

Q: What will be the conclusions that might be drawn from the study’s findings?

A: The data from this investigation was obtained close to two decades ago, but it demonstrated a significant percentage of our senior clinic patients used marijuana products for different health problems and symptoms. Most patients did not experience side effects but lots of the patients simply used CBD instead of THC comprising products. Many patients found utilization of marijuana products effective for pain. This is a questionnaire, so drawing conclusions about the benefits of marijuana use are limited. 

(THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, and CBD, or cannabidiol) are just among the greater than 100 chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. THC is the one that is potently psychoactive, the one that receives a user high. CBD  is a nonintoxicating compound from cannabis used as a remedy for epilepsy and seizures, inflammation and inflammation, anxietyand Crohn’s disease, opioid withdrawal and other disorders.)

Q: The abstract claims 345 people finished the analysis. Was this at the sort of you interviewing them did they complete questionnaires, etc.?

A: The 345 patients included in the study responded to an anonymous questionnaire offered at both practice locations. They answered the survey. 

Q: What are the names of these practices where the folks were discovered that you surveyed?

A:  Respondents came from the two CU (Colorado University) seniors clinics — one located from the Anschutz Medical Center (in Aurora) and yet another within our suburban Lone Tree (in Lone Tree) satellite clinic. 

Q: Once I did the study start and finish?

A: The surveys were conducted between October 2016 and January 2017. 

Q: Considering the abstract notes that the study has limitations –“small number of survey respondents” etc. — precisely what parameters are essential to get a follow up study to be considered authoritative?

A: I’m unsure what you mean by”definitive.” This was not a clinical trial also was not intended to answer if marijuana products were effective for medical conditions or symptoms in older adults. It was a survey of our patients’ use/practices and their perceptions of their use.

Q: Can you please provide background information about yourself and the number and names of others who helped you perform the analysis?

A: I have been a geriatrician for over 20 years and have been with UCHealth for just under three years.  I went to medical school at U of Illinois-Chicago, did my internship/residency at NY University/Belleview Hospital as well as my Geriatric Fellowship at Mount Sinai.  Dr. Ian Reynolds has been the consequence with this study (mentored research project through his philosophical fellowship) alongside other band members included Dr. Danielle Fixen (pharmD), Dr. Sunny Linnebur (pharmD), Dr. Bennett Parnes, Dr. Skotti Church, Dr. Hillary Lum and Prajakta Shanbhag, MPH (graduate student). 

(They are considering a further analysis of the topic, maybe surveying  physicians in their experience with cannabis use in patients, but no application was shown, Orosz said )

An official with the nonprofit NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Legislation ) said the Colorado survey demonstrated marijuana was serving seniors.

“That is a people that, occasionally, had firsthand experience with cannabis in their young adulthood, and have returned to cannabis in older age,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in a press release.

“Seniors are turning to cannabis as a potential choice to Provide symptomatic relief while potentially preventing the striking side effects related to other medications and Improving the quality of life”

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