One of the fastest-growing demographics of patients exploring medical cannabis is adults over fifty (50) years.  Chronic health conditions become more prevalent with age.  And with the ongoing opioid crisis in America, it is not surprising that seniors are exploring natural and alternative medicines.

Traditionally, the Baby Boomers have shied away from using cannabis.  For adult-use or medical purposes. But now that 36 states in America have legalized medical cannabis, the stigma and hesitancies are starting to dissipate.

If you are a senior and struggling with one or more chronic disease diagnoses, symptom management is a priority.  Your quality of life depends on it.  And you are not alone.  Seniors are starting to understand that medical cannabis can provide better relief.  And it may be a more affordable option than coping with the growing costs of prescription medications. 

Physicians Have Reduced Prescriptions of Opioids: Patients Living With Unresolved Pain

Skyrocketing overdoses caused by opioid medications. That is what many states in America have been facing for more than a decade.  And in response, health authorities have been closely monitoring how many narcotics that physicians are prescribing.  And in some cases, doctors have been required to attend opioid addiction prevention and safety training programs.

Did you know that a physician must closely monitor how many opioid prescriptions they write? In some jurisdictions, getting a refill on an opioid or narcotic medication is not possible. You have to schedule another appointment with your physician.  And that includes a check-up, including a pain inventory questionnaire for the patient.  That is how physicians can legally justify prescribing a patient opioids.  

Can a doctor get into trouble for prescribing too many opioids to his or her patients? Absolutely.  And rather than risk a legal issue, physicians have substantially decreased the number of opioid prescriptions that they write.

The contraction in the number of opioid prescriptions has left many patients with uncontrolled pain symptoms. And because of regional health information exchange (HIE) tracking of prescriptions (overdose precaution), patients can no longer seek multiple providers for medications. That was one way that patients (desperate to maintain symptom control) tried to circumvent the cutbacks.

In the United States, approximately 50 million adults are living with moderate to severe chronic pain.  And without a safe method of alleviating inflammation and pain, it can disrupt activities of daily living. Including employment, exercise, independent living, and self-care.

How Do You Apply to Get a Medical Cannabis Card?

Medical cannabis is now available in 36 states in America. Each state self-governs a medical cannabis program.  It is usually managed by the Department of Health (DOH) or a regulatory body that helps create new laws and govern the application process. And the training required by physicians to be able to recommend medical cannabis for patients. 

1.  If Mobility is a Problem, Consider Designating a Caregiver

If you live at home and not in a long-term care facility, you can apply for a medical card in your state.  However, if you cannot visit a dispensary, you may choose to assign a legal caregiver.  This is a trusted guardian or family member who will help you purchase your medical cannabis. 

In medical cannabis programs, caregivers are often assigned for minors under the age of 18 years. However, seniors that rely on homecare and assistance can also benefit from registering a caregiver.  You will still get your medical card, but the caregiver will also apply and receive a card to assist you.  Your caregiver’s name will be on your card, which provides legal protection for the individual to purchase medical cannabis supplies from a dispensary for your needs.

Caregivers must pass a criminal background check.  They must not have a record of a drug-related conviction to qualify.  And the caregiver must be a designated guardian for you. It may be a spouse, a sibling, or one of your children (over the age of 21) who can become your official caregiver.

2. Ask Your Referring Physician for Advice About Different Types of Medical Cannabis

After you have received your medical card, you may feel a little nervous about visiting a dispensary.  There are a lot of products to choose from. If you have never used cannabis before (or if it has been a long-time), you may not be sure where to start.

There are two resources seniors can rely on for information about medical cannabis and their health condition.  First, your referring physician. This is the practitioner that helped you apply for your medical card.  You can schedule a telemedicine appointment with them (if available) to discuss your symptoms and ask for recommendations about strains of cannabis and intake methods.

For instance, while smokable cannabis is one of the fastest ways to experience medicinal benefits, people with respiratory problems may need another alternative.  There are tinctures, which are drops you place under the tongue.  That method can also provide rapid relief.

Some states have legalized edibles.  These may be available in your local dispensary in the form of teas or coffees, lozenges, or gummies.   Edibles are one of the easiest and discreet ways to take medical cannabis.  And they taste good too.

The second resource that first-time seniors have is your medical dispensary.  Did you know that staff or “budtenders” as they are called, receive special training regarding medical cannabis products?  If you share some of the symptoms you are experiencing, they can suggest strains you may like to try.  And some strains can be more useful for pain relief. 

3. Learn Where You Are Allowed to Smoke Medical Cannabis

You may see advertisements and signs for dispensaries everywhere.  And you may indeed see a crowd of patients at your local dispensary.  But after you have purchased your medical cannabis, you need to know where it is legal to consume it.

Most states have laws that prohibit smoking cannabis in public.  And you cannot be near a school, daycare, or another facility with minors with cannabis even if you have a medical card. The federal government still considers cannabis to be a controlled substance and illegal.

No matter your local state laws, having cannabis in your possession or consuming it on federal property can result in a felony offense.  That includes places like a post office, government building, or state park. It can also have a public lake that is owned and managed by the Army Corps.  Make sure you aren’t carrying or taking cannabis on any federal property.

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