Can Medical Marijuana Help Aging Parents' Insomnia?

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If an aging loved one in your life complains about not being able to sleep well, that older person is not alone. According to a 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll, 39% of older people were likely to say they wake up a lot during the night. My mother in law, Alice, now 95, is one of them. For the entire time I have known her, over three decades, she has complained of insomnia. She reported trying every kind of remedy out there: prescription sleeping pills, over the counter aids, herbal concoctions, etc. Consistently, she said none of them worked. She could sometimes fall asleep but could not stay asleep.

Her family thought it was time for her to try marijuana. Living in California where medical use of marijuana has been legal for years, it was not much trouble to get a doctor’s recommendation. It was done by video conference with an M.D. He asked Alice some good questions, discussed what products might work and recommended a specific type of weed in elixir form. She was not looking to get high. She just wanted to stay asleep for the night. She was all in favor of trying something new. We got the drops the doctor recommended for her.

She tried them under her tongue as the physician directed. No luck. However, her persistent kids did some research, found out that she might do better with a different ratio than first recommended of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), the two most prominent chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. Her son attended a physician’s lecture on the subject of medical marijuana for older adults and he got some good direction about other ratios to try. After experimenting with a handful of different ones, he finally got the winning combination for Alice.

He and Alice have a long-standing agreement that she is to call him every morning. She does call, which is reassuring for anyone with a parent that age. After the right marijuana ratio for Alice’s particular needs was found they had their usual call. “How’d you sleep last night, Mom?” he asked. “Pretty well” was the answer. I don’t think he had ever heard her say that. The next morning it was the same. This continued for days. Then she wanted to know where she could get some more as she was running out. The drops she uses have a somewhat unusual ratio of THC to CBD, meaning that you can’t find it just anywhere. But with some effort and a few calls, he found a dispensary in her neighborhood. Alice is sleeping quite well, regularly now. We are amazed. Not surprisingly, she seems to be in a better mood with this new sleep pattern too.

There is no doubt that some will think this is a controversial idea, using marijuana for an older person. Some disagree with any use of weed. But for us, it is a remarkable medicine. We like that it has no side effects and she doesn’t get high from using it. I like that no one has ever died from using medical marijuana for sleep. Can’t say the same for sleeping pills. We learned that in an industry that is still very much in flux, with prior research on medical marijuana’s efficacy prohibited for decades, it is not easy to determine what will work for any particular individual. For sleep, at least, people react differently to various combinations of THC and CBD. Experimentation with a doctor’s supervision helps a lot. No harm came from trying different things for Alice. She either slept better or she didn’t. No side effects occurred. It is a relief for all that she now manages a sleep problem that was never handled well in the past.

There are now 26 states which have legalized marijuana for medical use, with at least 3 more soon to join them. Plenty of accounts by healthcare providers demonstrate that medicinal use of marijuana helps seniors with pain, anxiety, nausea during chemotherapy and a score of other things. I have done no research on its effectiveness for all of these things. I only know what is working very well for the matriarch of our family right now. And I’m very happy that Alice can finally say she sleeps through the night. That’s one more thing for her to celebrate about turning 95.

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Source: 420Intel – Medical Cannabis

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