The use of medical cannabis products by older patients is associated with improvements in subjects’ quality of life and reductions in their use of concomitant medications, according to data published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

Israeli researchers assessed the use of federally authorized medical cannabis products over a six-month period in a cohort of approximately 10,000 qualified patients. Subjects in the study averaged 55 years of age and were most likely to be diagnosed with either cancer, pain, or post-traumatic stress. Under Israeli law, physicians can authorize qualified patients to access cannabis flowers and infused products from licensed retail providers. 

Patients typically rated cannabis as highly effective in mitigating their symptoms. Among patients with post-traumatic stress, 91 percent reported cannabis treatment as successful, as did 84 percent of patients with inflammatory bowel disease, and 78 percent of patients with chronic pain.

Consistent with other studies, most subjects reported improvements in their overall quality of life during the trial. While only 13 percent of patients reported “good QOL” prior to treatment initiation, 70 percent reported good QOL at 6 months. 

Many subjects also engaged in drug substitution – a finding that is also consistent with prior studies. Among patients who entered the study using opioids, nearly 40 percent ceased consuming them following cannabis treatment. Twenty-five percent of participants who consumed prescription antidepressants and anti-epileptic drugs at the onset of the trial stopped using their prescribed medications, as did 17 percent of patients who possessed prescriptions for anxiolytics.  

Authors concluded: “In this prospective study, we describe the characteristics and outcomes of approximately 10,000 patients treated with medical cannabis. Results showed high adherence, high safety with a low incidence of adverse events, and a high rate of effectiveness in the prescribed treatment, as well as a decrease in pain levels, improvement in QOL, and a reduction in the consumption of concomitant medications.”

Full text of the study, “Adherence, safety, and effectiveness of medical cannabis and epidemiological characteristics of the patient population: A prospective study,” appears in Frontiers in Medicine. Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, ‘Cannabis Use by Older Adult Populations’ and from the fact sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.

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