Any experience with medical marijuana?


My 83 yo Mom has debilitating psoriatic arthritis. She can't take NSAIDs because of gut issues. Our state recently legalized and her condition is one that would qualify her to get a medical marijuana license. She is cognitively fine. Complains an awful lot though - trying to find solutions when she gripes. Could this be the right one?

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So, I don't know how much you know about cannabis or medical cannabis, AnybodyOutThere. Forgive me if I'm telling you stuff you already know.

I live in BC, Canada, where marijuana is practically part of the culture. I think seniors here have been ahead of the game for a long time, in terms of using it to treat things like arthritis. I've honestly heard nothing but positive stories from those who do so.

One of the issues with marijuana is the smoke, of course, especially for seniors. Because you have to hold the smoke in your lungs for 5-15 seconds, the smoke from a single joint is comparable to smoking up to ten cigarettes. The good thing is you can get it in other forms now, when making medical purchases. The most popular seems to be the oils. Alternatively, you can buy marijuana bud and make a butter out of it, which you then use in cooking. The problem with this though - or any "edible" - is it's harder to regulate the dose, so I personally think it's better to stick with an oil. The oils are basically a vegetable-based oil (usually grapeseed) with THC and/or CBD crystals suspended in them. You have to shake them when using, to distribute the crystals through the oil.

We all have endocannabinoid receptors in our brains and bodies. The endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating pain, mood, appetite, and memory. Cannabis interacts with these receptors to help regulate body function. My understanding is the reason medical cannabis is so effective on arthritis is because the nerves in the joints have a lot of these endocannibinoid receptors, so that cannabis not only dulls pain in the brain's receptors, but also helps reduce inflammation in the joints themselves. When the inflammation is reduced, a person can move their joints more easily, which in turn also improves their function.

There are two main active components in marijuana that are useful in treating pain, illness, mood, and other issues - THC and CBD. THC is the part that causes euphoria ("getting high"). It is generally much better at providing pain and inflammation relief than CBD, but it can cause side effects in some people, like increased anxiety and paranoia (that's what it does to me). CBD does not have any effect in creating a "high," and it actually helps regulate mood, as well as having some helpful effects on inflammation.

It's thought that the CBD balances out the psychological side effects of the THC, so it's really important to ensure there is at least a balance of CBD/THC in whatever you buy. Part of the problem with much of the marijuana sold illegally is that it's bred for high THC content, with very little CBD left in it. And in my view, it's why it's better to buy the oils, because you know exactly what you're getting, and how much of it.

I personally use CBD oil to treat anxiety - it works far more effectively than anything I've ever tried, including pharmaceuticals. When my mom had a series of bad falls, I gave her a 1:4 blend of THC/CBD. (That means it was one part THC to four parts CBD.) It helped her quite a lot. You might have to experiment to find out what works, but if your mom has no experience with marijuana, I'd suggest starting with an oil that has a higher CBD content as well. But with arthritis, I also think you have to have SOME THC content, as it is far more effective at providing pain relief. And due to the limited research on medical cannabis, you'll find you have to experiment with the dosage as well. It's always better to start out with small doses and see what, if any, improvements there are. If your mom starts to have any side effects like increased anxiety, depression, or paranoia, stop the THC and switch to just using CBD. It might not be as effective, though, but it will still help reduce inflammation. If you switch to CBD only, you might have to increase the dose.

Patrick Stewart (the actor) has spoken publicly about using medical cannabis to treat his arthritis - I read recently that in addition to edibles, he uses a cream on his hands, as well as a spray, and finds both very effective. 

One thing that's important: if your mom is still driving, she will NOT be able to drive if she's ingesting THC. If she gets into an accident and tests positive for THC in her blood, she could face the same legal consequences as an impaired driver, even if she has a medical cannabis license.  THC remains in the bloodstream for up to a week, so even if she hasn't used it that day, she could still test positive. 
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Dorianne

I'm off on my respite block shortly, but I'll come back in later. I did just want to say that medical marijuana is one of the BEST things for arthritis, and I think you'll probably find it will help with your mom's mood a lot.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Dorianne

Yes, I certainly would try it. Explain what’s happening concerning her medication and go for it. I think your mom’s going to get a little quality of life back! I’m happy for you both!
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to HolidayEnd

Hi, if five people say it worked well in their experience, and another five said it was no good, you'd still be right where you are now. Mom is 83 and in horrible pain, I would not hesitate to try it. I do know it's much safer then all the narcotics/benzo's their giving out today. Good luck!
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Pepsee