Adverse Effects

Medical Cannabis for Adults Over 50

In Summary:

As with all elements of the aging process, the human endocannabinoid system loses tone over time. Whether it is a reduction in the numbers of cannabinoid receptors or a slow waning of the machinery used to create the signaling molecules that bind to the receptors or the natural senescence of the system that supports all of these normal signaling processes, the fact remains that adults over 50 are best-suited for external support for the endocannabinoid system.

Indeed, the average age at dispensaries is surprising to most who are not familiar with the modern medical cannabis arena. Baby Boomers, perhaps more than any other age group, tend to dominate the medical cannabis dispensaries. This is no new phenomenon, however. Through the ages, across cultures and around the globe, cannabis has been consumed primarily by older adults. Whether by tribe elders, wise councilmen, spiritual leaders, or the educated elite, cannabis has been an integral part of human aging for as long as we have recorded history.

Here, a review out of Israel followed at 184 patients over 65 (average age was 81.2) beginning cannabis treatment. 63.6% were female. “After six months of treatment, 58.1% were still using cannabis. Of these patients, 33.6% reported adverse events, the most common of which were dizziness (12.1%) and sleepiness and fatigue (11.2%). Of the respondents, 84.8% reported some degree of improvement in their general condition.”

Appropriately, the authors advise caution for older adults related to those adults who may be consuming multiple pharmaceuticals, for potential medication interaction effects, as well as nervous system impairment, and increased cardiovascular risk for those who may quire the concern. Wisely, they recommend that “Medical cannabis should still be considered carefully and individually for each patient after a risk-benefit analysis and followed by frequent monitoring for efficacy and adverse events.”

Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:

At CED Clinic, we have long seen that the average age of medical patients is over 50. Whether for concerns related to sleep, pain, mental or physical health, it seems as though Baby Boomers have either weathered enough politics to have developed a healthy cynicism for the misinformation campaigns of the 1930s and 1970s, or they have direct or indirect experience with cannabis to have learned of its safety and efficacy. Either way, it is quickly reclaiming its historical place in the care of older adults, although oddly… it seems to be a demographic skipped over by the marketing systems of most establishments in the cannabis arena, at least for now.


suggested dose for elderly and cannabis
direction of action for cannabis treatments
bar of significant improvement with cannabis

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Benjamin Caplan, MDMedical Cannabis for Adults Over 50
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An Analysis of Sudden Cardiac Death Exposes the Danger of Tobacco and Cocaine

Sudden cardiac death associated to substances of abuse and psychotropic drugs consumed by young people- A population study based on forensic autopsies

In Summary:

A recent study out of Spain has revealed alarming trends among cases of sudden cardiac death associated with substances of abuse consumed by young people. Half of the 15-36-year-olds who suffered sudden cardiac death were found with illicit substances in their bodies, primarily cannabis, tobacco, and cocaine. Researchers found that although cannabis was the most common substance found in the deceased systems, cocaine and tobacco are known to have a stronger impact on the cardiovascular system and lead to ischemic heart disease, which is often the more acute causes of sudden death. It was also mentioned here that the duration of cannabis is far longer in the body than that of either tobacco or cocaine, and this duration may easily confuse people to associate it as a trigger for sudden death.

However, on the other hand, there are several tragic cases of young, otherwise heart-healthy individuals who have died with cannabis as the only substance discovered. Fortunately, these cases are extraordinarily rare, but unfortunately, no reproducible association has been established, so the mysterious concerns are not easily relieved or forgotten.

Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:

While the return of medical cannabis to modern medical care seems to bring with it a return of appreciation for more naturalistic care, it is critical for us all to recognize that we still have much to learn. The tools and high standards of scientific evaluation have only recently been applied to cannabis, and there are reasonable arguments that the usual tools may not actually apply (for example, some are suggesting that the placebo effect, a cornerstone of randomized control trials may be a facet of effects related to the endocannabinoid system.)

For these, and a great many other unknowns, it is important for the discerning consumer to consult with trusted resources, including friends, family, scientists, and where possible, doctors, to ensure the appropriateness of use on an individual basis.




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Benjamin Caplan, MDAn Analysis of Sudden Cardiac Death Exposes the Danger of Tobacco and Cocaine
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Headache and Migraine Relief Using Cannabis

“Short- and Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on Headache and Migraine “

In Summary:

There are many headache and migraine medications on the market that advertise how they can make you feel better. But what happens when they make you feel worse? Medication overuse headaches occur in 15% of patients taking conventional migraine medication, so it’s no surprise that people are looking for alternatives that bring them relief without reduced risk.

A team of physicians from Washington University wanted to see if cannabis could be a contender. By reviewing data from about 2,000 patients who logged the details of their smoking sessions with the app StrainPrint, researchers were able to see if inhaling cannabis Flower or concentrate could be a solution for headache and migraine relief. They learned that there was, in fact, good reason to be hopeful for the herb.

While concentrates did have a larger reduction in severity rating, there haven’t been enough studies to say it is certainly better than Flower. Overall, inhaled cannabis reduced the severity of migraines and headaches by 50%. Some patients did report needing to use a larger dose for future sessions, indicating the development of tolerance, but the severity of the headaches or migraines wasn’t getting worse or more frequent like what can happen with conventional medications.

In a time when plant-based and all-natural medicines are becoming more sought out, it’s exciting to see medical cannabis is being considered more seriously as a contender. With the positive results from this study, and similar related work will hopefully encourage more physicians (and patients) to explore this centuries-old option.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDHeadache and Migraine Relief Using Cannabis
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Participants in Cannabis for Chronic Pain Study Describe Life-Changing Results

Restored Self: A Phenomenological Study of Pain Relief by Cannabis

In Summary:

In an Israeli qualitative study investigating the impact of cannabis use on chronic pain patients, all but one of the nineteen study participants experienced pain relief after cannabis use. Participants explained how cannabis allowed them to not just discontinue medications treating their pain, but also medications treating secondary outcomes of their pain, such as poor sleep and anxiety. Patients described feeling “a sigh of relief,” being “reborn” or being saved by cannabis use after years of debilitating pain and medication side effects.

Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:

The pathway through which cannabis works to combat pain is different from the usual pathways doctors have used for the last 90 years. Prior to the 1930s, cannabis was used routinely, just about everywhere, but political and social agendas kidnapped the medicine and hid it away from most of the mainstream and from routine medical education.

Patients often describe typical pain relievers as adjusting the impact of the pain. Reducing or quieting the pain, softening discomfort, allowing the sufferer to perform previously typical tasks without debilitation or dysfunction. Cannabis, on the other hand, is sometimes described as “taking the sufferer away from the pain,” rather than the other way around. The effects that cannabis can have on the reduction of inflammation, attention, memory, and relaxation, provide a new type of opportunity for relief.

Still, other patients describe the effects of cannabis through a lens of mental focus. Whereas in daily use we typically open a standard set of drawers, some have said, the use of cannabis allows the consumer to open up a different set of draws, and through this adjusted lens, to see discomfort from a different perspective.

For those suffering with chronic pain, years upon years of discomfort, suffering that, when paired with modern medicines, has only met frustration and further discomfort, cannabis is frequently seen as a welcome “sigh of relief.”

different types of  pain
Discussion  from text of research  doc
Sample of text discussing lack of adverse  side effects of cannabis

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Benjamin Caplan, MDParticipants in Cannabis for Chronic Pain Study Describe Life-Changing Results
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Pre- and Post-natal Tobacco and Cannabis Exposure Impacts Children in a Sex-Specific Manner

Pre- and postnatal tobacco and cannabis exposure and child behavior problems: Bidirectional associations, joint effects, and sex differences

Summary Info:

Prenatal maternal cannabis and tobacco use is predictive of behavioral problems among toddlers. Resulting differences from control groups include anxiety, depression, and attention problems. Female children of mom’s consuming substances, in particular, seem to be more susceptible to problems relating to internalization, attention, and sleep. Additionally, the behavioral problems induced by prenatal cannabis and tobacco consumption often lead to further maternal substance consumption, which frequently exacerbates existing behavioral problems. 

Highlights of study of mother's prenatal and postnatal consumption of  cannabis
Highlights of interplay of mother's prenatal and postnatal consumption of  cannabis with children
Highlights of interplay of mother's prenatal and postnatal consumption of  cannabis with toddlers

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Benjamin Caplan, MDPre- and Post-natal Tobacco and Cannabis Exposure Impacts Children in a Sex-Specific Manner
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Extensive Cannabis Studies Underway Globally

Current Status and Prospects for Cannabidiol Preparations as New Therapeutic Agents

In Summary:

As of 2016, upwards of 60 clinical trials relating to the use of medical cannabis were in progress. The scope of clinical trials included conditions such as anxiety, cocaine dependence, infantile spasms, schizophrenia, solid tumor, and many more. The status of cannabis as a Schedule I drug, under the Controlled Substance Act, limits researchers’ ability to freely collect data if they require support from NIH funding. While there are opportunities for researchers to study cannabis and its derivatives with the support of private funds, this typically risks an appearance of sacrificed scientific integrity and independence. Very few private entities would condone research which might shed an unfavorable light on their products. On the other hand, current NIH-funded research requires the use of the national supply of cannabis, a crop well-known to be very limited in quality. Increasingly, more states have been legalizing the medical and recreational use of cannabis in recent years, allowing scientists with more opportunities for private funding in which to shed more light on the vast medicinal benefits of cannabis. Animal models and human trials have pointed toward clinical applications of medical cannabis including anxiety, nausea, seizures, and inflammation, although the array of competing and synergistic compounds within the plant seem to continually open new doors to relief from a large array of illnesses.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDExtensive Cannabis Studies Underway Globally
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Pre-clinical Evidence for Analgesic Effects of Cannabis Doesn’t Match Human Trial Results

Current evidence of cannabinoid-based analgesia obtained in preclinical and human experimental settings

In Summary:

Pre-clinical animal models of pain provide a wealth of data supporting the pain-relief capabilities of cannabis; however, reproducing this data in human clinical trials has proved difficult. Data from the animal pre-clinical trials point to cannabinoids reducing stress responses and pain-evoked stress, desensitizing pain receptors, and increased pain sensitivity in animals that lack cannabinoid receptors. However, human trials present conflicting results: several studies have shown dose-dependent relationships, and in the current review this was experienced by many participants, wherein lower and medium doses provided pain relief, but higher doses triggered increased sensitivity to pain. Controlled studies may show a lack of impressive pain relief effects, personal reports of pain relief associated with cannabis use are nearly universal in retrospective reports. This suggests that there may be an important effect on well-being or mood, rather merely sensory pain. Furthermore, the relieving effects of cannabis appear to impact men and women differently.

Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:

Additionally, much of pain relief is subjective, in both sensation, description, and inside the study environment. The description of pain varies from person to person, and researchers may be asking the wrong questions to the right people or the right questions to the wrong people. In fact, a growing perspective is that this mismatch may be more common and more pronounced than previously recognized. The makeup of pain is also quite complicated. For instance, a limb might hurt, but if there is swelling or tenderness nearby, those may amplify the discomfort. How can we take the full picture into account in the form of helpful data points? What of the emotional or psychological impacts of pain? Is it even possible that such things can be fully understood, let alone measured reliably? Assuming that emotional phenomenon or stress/suffering can be conveyed to research scientists, how can we ever hope to compare one person’s experience to another’s? For example, one would imagine that frustration associated with the pain experienced by a venerable world war veteran, who has previously endured tremendous and complex pains and associated psychological trauma may be quite different from someone who has never experienced a particular pain before.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDPre-clinical Evidence for Analgesic Effects of Cannabis Doesn’t Match Human Trial Results
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Could Inhaled Cannabis Be More Effective to Relieve Pain than Oral Cannabinoids?

Cannabis for Chronic Pain: Challenges and Considerations

In Summary:

Comparisons between the use of inhaled cannabis plant versus pharmaceutical-grade oral cannabinoids demonstrate an advantage of inhalation over oral delivery. Conditions for which inhalation has provided superior over oral consumption include:

HIV, diabetic neuropathy, post-herpetic neuralgia, complex regional pain syndrome, spinal cord injury, traumatic neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, and cervical disk disease.

An important note: patients consuming cannabinoids orally are more likely to withdraw from studies due to negative side effects and lack of efficacy. Also, edible cannabis may compete, amplify, or have effects delayed, when interacting with other ingested foods and drinks, A major advantage of inhalation is the opportunity for patients to titrate, or easily test varying dosages at home, with reasonably rapid feedback. On the other hand, dosage adjustments for oral food-borne cannabinoids are much more complex, and cannabis in the form of oral pharmaceutical-products may require a doctor visit and a new prescription.

Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:

In the clinic, there seems to be a great divide in the population, a group of patients who simply adore the edibles (often in low-dose candies, low-dose chocolate, or titrated tinctures), and a group who use inhalation, almost exclusively. There are also some who are discovering topicals (salves, patches, lotions). There is a growing number of patients who use each of these methods with intention, related to their timing of onset and their duration of action, but this requires education, practice, and a degree of sophistication in use that is relatively new to the industry.

As with most consumption, medicinal or not, it seems common for individuals to find a method that they enjoy and stick to it. Interestingly, in recent years, the US cannabis industry has evolved in a wild growth phase. As it has embraced a dynamic landscape, with increasing competition from all sides, including new stores and product offerings popping up all the time, there seems to be a growing openness, in consumers, to trying new products and exploring new offerings. Coincidentally, this openness to change and the unfamiliar happens to mirror one of the core neurobiological functions of cannabis in the brain, as seen across the neuropsychiatric and neuroimaging cannabis literature.

How exciting to imagine a future medicine that may help consumers to be more open to change?

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Benjamin Caplan, MDCould Inhaled Cannabis Be More Effective to Relieve Pain than Oral Cannabinoids?
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Dr Caplan’s response to Surgeon General advisory statement

Last week’s statement by the US Surgeon General

https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/reports-and-publications/addiction-and-substance-misuse/advisory-on-marijuana-use-and-developing-brain/index.html

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Benjamin Caplan, MDDr Caplan’s response to Surgeon General advisory statement
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Adolescent Cannabis Use Linked to Sleep Disturbances

Sleep Disturbances, Psychosocial Difficulties and Health Risk Behavior

Summary info:

A Dutch study investigated sleep disturbances in adolescents. Sleep disruption was linked to cannabis use, psychosocial difficulties, health risk behavior, and increased suicidality. Additionally, gender disparity in results suggests that girls may be more susceptible to sleep disturbances than boys , a result consistent with past recognition of some gender discrepancies in cannabis activity. These results highlight the importance of discouraging haphazard cannabis use, during adolescence, and the need for further gender-focused research surrounding sleep habits and cannabis use.

Dr Caplan, CED Foundation, and the #MDTake:

There are a few important issues that converge in this review. Generally, the question of adolescents’ use, (as an alternative way of describing the question of effects on a developing brain.) Also, this paper raises valuable questions about how cannabis may be interacting with sleep hygiene, for better or for worse. Psychosocial impact and risky behaviors are very complex topics to engage, even with a fairly large population sample of (n=16,781.) There are lots of intercorrelated topics assessed, analyzed, and discussed in the review, and it is all-too-easy to want to find causal patterns that are not apparent, again for better or worse, unless one chooses to construe the results or interpretation with causation in mind. Realistically, it is very likely to find overlap in a population of adolescents who have psychosocial difficulties, engage in risky behaviors, have increased risk of suicidality, and consume cannabis. To point to one of the components, arbitrarily, as the primary cause of the others is to unnecessarily and unjustly oversimplify a complex set of circumstances. The essential tenet, different genders seem to react differently with cannabis, is an excellent take-away, and also that we have much more still to learn.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDAdolescent Cannabis Use Linked to Sleep Disturbances
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