Prescription drugs in older adults can be problematic in some cases. Physicians might be hesitant to prescribe certain drugs for adults 65 or older because of the side effects they might cause. Some medications can cause confusion, low blood pressure, and falls while others can cause dry mouth and blurry vision.
Even some over-the-counter medications can create unwanted side effects. In fact, the American Geriatrics Society has created a list of medications that should be avoided by older adults for this reason. Quite simply, the benefits just outweigh the risk.
Ironically, some conditions go untreated or ineffectively treated because the physician believes there are no better options. But medical marijuana can be a viable alternative and, in many people, without the unwanted side effects. The following describes conditions, prescription drugs used to treat them, the side effects of these Rx drugs, and possible alternatives to medical marijuana you could try.
Antihistamines like Benadryl can be found in most medicine cabinets. It’s a great over-the-counter medication for allergies and sleep problems and is even safe for children. But, as we age, it’s harder for our bodies to properly get rid of antihistamines, and that can greatly increase side effects in older adults.
Doxylamine (Unisom), Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), and Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) might also be found. Newer antihistamines like Allegra, Claritin, and Zyrtec provide fewer conflicts with other medications but can still produce unwanted side effects, especially in older adults.
While research is ongoing and severe allergic reactions require the immediate attention of a doctor, there is evidence emerging that CBD may have an impact on allergies. One study in 2014 found that a-pinene, a terpene found in cannabis, given to mice resulted in fewer allergic reactions. Another study in 2019 revealed that CBD also reduced instances of allergic asthma in mice and reduced airway inflammation.
Prescription medications, often referred to as “Z-Drugs”, like eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Ambien) are often prescribed for insomnia or sleep issues. But, in older adults, these medications can cause serious problems. Delirium, loss of coordination, and cognitive issues are just a few. Benzodiazepines (BZDs) should also be avoided for sleep problems. These include medications like estazolam, triazolam (Halcion), and temazepam (Restoril).
While THC is known for its sedating effect, CBD has been known to help improve overall sleep quality. Indicas are known to be more sedating, so that would be a good place to start. Be prepared to try different varieties to find the perfect one for you. If you have other conditions, be sure and let your pharmacist know. Some strains may provide relief from other conditions such as anxiety, nausea, and pain.
More than 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Older adults may confront unwanted side effects such as confusion, sleepiness, and loss of coordination when taking muscle relaxers or other pain relievers. Carisoprodol (Soma), cyclobenzaprine, and methocarbamol are a few common examples. Symptoms of pain can include migraines, neuropathy, joint pain, arthritis, and nerve and muscle pain.
As an alternative, anecdotal evidence and emerging research suggest that, overall, patients preferred indica strains for pain management, sedation, and sleep but there are pain-fighting strains in sativa, indica, and hybrid types of cannabis. According to some research, cannabis is as effective as highly addictive opioids in managing pain among those participating in the study.
Patients also report success using a blend of THC and CBD for pain relief. Research also suggests caryophyllene, a common terpene found in cannabis, may be a factor in helping to reduce pain. Talk to your pharmacist about which strains would work best for you.
Glimepiride (Amaryl) or glyburide (Diabeta) are used to help control blood sugar in Type 2 diabetes. They both belong to a medication class called sulfonylureas. But they tend to stick around in your body longer than other sulfonylureas. The most common side effect of sulfonylureas is low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Metformin, one of the most commonly prescribed medications for diabetes, can include side effects such as GI disturbances, loss of appetite, B-12 absorption, lactic acidosis, UTIs, dry mouth, constipation, and skin rashes.
Two of the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant that have been identified as particularly helpful for diabetes are THCv and CBD. In addition, a terpene found in cannabis, beta-caryophyllene, plays a role in lipid and glucose metabolism and has antidiabetic potential. One study found that CBD given to mice reduced hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), lowered cholesterol, and upped natural insulin production. Other studies have shown that cannabis can ease swelling and pain from nerve damage.
While research is ongoing and, finally, after decades of suppression of cannabis research, we are seeing positive results. However, studies are still being conducted to show long-term effects and the extent that cannabis can actually work with the body’s cannabinoid system to control, reduce, or even eliminate conditions such as those mentioned above. Talk to your doctor or medical marijuana pharmacist about how you can add marijuana to your treatment plan. To get started, click the button below.