Seniors increasingly are using cannabidiol, or CBD, to help manage a variety of chronic disease symptoms. A new paper from the Gerontological Society of America tackles key questions about safety and side effects. CBD (Cannabidiol), an active compound found in cannabis has been proven to be effective in the treatment of ailments associated with elderly people such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, dementia and even depression. CBD is being studied as a treatment for a wide range of conditions. Find out more about how CBD can help you and what risks to consider.
‘Not necessarily benign’: Geriatricians address safety as seniors turn to CBD for chronic conditions
Seniors increasingly are using cannabidiol, or CBD, to help manage a variety of chronic disease symptoms — despite a lack of high-quality clinical research on the drug, according to the Gerontological Society of America. A new paper presents key questions about CBD safety and side effects in older adults, and what information clinicians will need to answer patients’ questions about the drug.
The GSA paper, “Medical Use of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Older Adults: A Focused Discussion on Safety,” summarizes a 2020 meeting of experts in pharmacy, clinical medicine and research, law and policy.
CBD is an active ingredient of cannabis, or marijuana, and an essential component of medical marijuana. There is a perception that the growing variety of health products containing CBD are low-risk for side effects, and a need exists for more clinical guidance, panelists said.
“Despite the scarcity of evidence, older adults are interested in using, or are already using, CBD products to alleviate symptoms from numerous diseases, undeterred by the risks. Thus, it is urgent to address current gaps in knowledge about the safety of CBD products in older adults through scientifically rigorous research,” the authors wrote.
Clinicians now face questions such as what ingredients are contained in CBD products, what effects can be expected, and whether CBD products interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications.
“It remains unclear what evidence supports their use for common chronic conditions such as pain, insomnia, loss of appetite, depression, anxiety, and weight loss,” the authors wrote. There is also the overarching question of what role healthcare providers should play in counseling patients who may perceive CBD to be outside of the clinician’s realm.
Those concerns become more pronounced in the context of the human aging process, they added.
One sign of possible safety concerns related to non-Food and Drug Administration-approved CBD products has been a sharp rise in calls to poison control centers between 2014 and 2020, according to William J. Lynch Jr., BPharm, RPh, of Jefferson Health and Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, in New Jersey.
Seniors not immune to adverse effects
It is known that CBD consumed as an ingredient in a non-FDA-approved medical product can produce acute impairment of attention, memory, verbal learning, executive function and psychomotor function, the GSA said. But exactly how aging-related changes in physiology affect the responses of older adults is yet unknown, it added.
Adverse reactions seniors may face when using non-FDA-approved CBD products include insomnia, diarrhea, fatigue, malaise, rash, vomiting, elevations in the liver enzymes, and infections, Lynch said.
“It’s important to know these effects because as pharmacists and physicians, we might modify a person’s medications if we found elevated liver function tests, for example — especially for older adults,” he said. “There also are many drug interactions with CBD that could cause increased clotting or bleeding, hepatotoxicity, or changes in metabolism that would require doses of other medications to be changed. CBD is not necessarily benign.”
Experts are concerned about a lack of oversight by the FDA and a lack of documentation on potential drug interactions. Inert or nonactive ingredients in non-FDA-approved CBD products (such as sesame seed oil and alcohol) also have the potential to trigger side effects, the GSA authors wrote.
The clinicians’ role
Clinicians have limited data to share with patients about the safety and efficacy of unapproved CBD products for difficult-to-manage conditions, including anxiety or agitation, depression, as well as behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, said Brent Forester, M.D., MSc, chief of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts and co-president of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry.
The current regulatory environment, in which cannabis and most derivative products are treated as Schedule I controlled substances, is a barrier to needed research in these areas, Forester said.
The FDA is seeking to address several topics of interest to the public, according to April Inyard Alexandrow, Ph.D., lead for the agency’s Cannabidiol Policy Working Group. These include:
- What happens if people use CBD daily for sustained periods of time?
- What level of intake triggers the known risks associated with CBD?
- How do different methods of exposure affect intake (for example, oral consumption, topical use, smoking, vaping)?
Most of the GSA meeting participants agreed that CBD science trails well behind policy and product marketing. More data should be collected on the clinical reasons older patients are motivated to use CBD and impediments to proper research should be lifted, they agreed.
“Participants felt that there was a need to build out evidence about the safety profile and efficacy of CBD as it relates to pain, anxiety, insomnia, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and other conditions for which CBD is considered a potential therapeutic for unmet needs,” they wrote.
Despite limited clinical training on CBD, it is important to support care teams in counseling older patients through the development of new educational opportunities and clinical tools for delivering reliable information, the authors concluded.
CBD Oil for the Elderly and Older Adults: Benefits & Uses
The Cannabis Sativa plant has at least 104 chemical compounds—also referred to as cannabinoids—of which cannabidiol (CBD) is a notable one. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD isn’t intoxicating as it does not give the highly stimulating feeling that cannabis is known for.
CBD has a wide range of properties that are being studied for their potential clinical benefits. Certain studies show that CBD could be helpful in a wide range of conditions, such as pain, inflammation, epilepsy, anorexia, schizophrenia, and more.
CBD oil is a liquid extract that’s usually derived from hemp. It is typically extracted with pressurized CO2 and then infused into carrier oils, such as MCT oil, hemp seed oil, or olive oil.
You can find CBD oil over the counter in many countries. Hemp-derived CBD oil is legal in all 50 states and you don’t need a prescription to buy it.
Moreover, CBD oil can be useful in certain conditions affecting older people. As such, it’s essential to determine exactly how helpful it is in treating these conditions and how to use it to minimize side effects and other potential health risks.
What Are the Different Types of CBD Oil?
CBD oils have three main variants based on chemical composition. These variants are CBD isolate, full-spectrum CBD oil, and broad-spectrum CBD oil.
This is the purest form of CBD, having no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content or other hemp compounds. The isolate is usually found in a crystal or powder form of CBD and is cheaper than the other variants.
Full Spectrum CBD
Full-spectrum CBD contains other cannabinoids that occur in the cannabis plant — also known as whole-plant CBD — including trace amounts of THC. Full-spectrum CBD has been shown to have more medicinal benefits than the other variants as it evokes the entourage effect — a mechanism where all cannabis compounds work together in synergy to amplify each other’s effects.
Broad Spectrum CBD
The broad-spectrum CBD also has all the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant but doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol. This variant is not as easily obtainable as the other versions, although the extraction process is similar to the other two.
How Effective Is CBD Oil?
In our bodies, the endocannabinoid system works to promote and maintain homeostasis — a state where everything functions optimally. It works irrespective of our external environment so that changes or fluctuations do not affect our normal body balance.
When that balance is breached, perhaps due to a sickness or injury, CBD oil helps the endocannabinoid system adjust so that it can resolve the problem faster and more optimally. CBD oil achieves this by slowing down the breakdown of endocannabinoids already present in the body.
This allows the body to use them longer and regulate balance more efficiently in all other systems throughout the body.
How Safe Is CBD Oil?
CBD oil has shown itself as a rising and promising treatment for older people.
It provides an alternative for older adults who are prescribed medical marijuana by their doctors. Medical marijuana is legal in some states, but some older people would prefer not to experience the buzz when taking their medicine.
CBD does not intoxicate or produce a feeling of euphoria when used; however, this is also dependent on the THC content.
CBD is usually tolerated by most people with very few side effects. A consultation with a holistic doctor experienced in CBD use will help you get a bigger picture of the pros and cons of your treatment.
Speaking of which…
What Are the Health Benefits of CBD Oil for Seniors?
There are several health benefits of CBD oil. Although research is still in development, certain studies show that CBD might become an alternative treatment option for seniors with different health conditions, such as:
Arthritis is one of the major causes of disability in the United States.
Recent reports from the Arthritis Foundation have shown that two of the most common types of arthritis — rheumatoid and osteoarthritis — may be successfully managed with the use of CBD.
Further research has also shown that CBD helped in reducing pain, improving sleep, and reducing anxiety among arthritis patients.
Although not many clinical studies have been conducted, the arthritis foundation has urged the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to regulate the use of CBD products such as tinctures and topicals for arthritic pain.
2. Chronic Pain
CBD can be used for pain management too. Its anti-inflammatory properties help in reducing joint pain associated with arthritis (1).
Its antioxidative, antiemetic, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective properties have made CBD a reliable option for many.
It can be used for health conditions such as lupus, nausea, post-traumatic stress, fibromyalgia, cancer pain, and even neuropathic pain.
3. Anxiety Disorders
Studies have confirmed that CBD may be an alternative solution for anxiety. A study carried out by the national institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) showed that CBD helped in reducing stress in animals.
CBD has also been recommended for people with post-traumatic stress disorders and it can also be used to treat insomnia caused by anxiety.
On top of that, CBD can help with the following conditions:
- Sleep disorder
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Lung conditions
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Things to Consider Before Buying CBD Oil
You should consider certain factors such as safety, transparency of your vendor, and the product’s quality to avoid common mistakes when buying CBD Oil.
Here are a few important things to look for:
- Certificates of Analysis (COA): this is the document that confirms the product’s chemical profile and the lack of contaminants, such as pesticides, heavy metals, and mycotoxins.
- The company’s reputation can be determined based on reviews, warning letters from the FDA, health claims made by the company (if it is unsubstantiated or not), and its certification status.
- MCT oil helps improve CBD’s absorption because CBD and other cannabinoids are fat-soluble.
In some countries, CBD oil is classified as a nutritional supplement rather than a drug. This makes it harder to know if it contains the exact quantities of cannabidiol, as regulation may be a bit lax.
Is CBD Oil Safe?
Although CBD oil can improve the quality of life of the elderly, it also comes with some benign side effects. Some of the risks associated with CBD oil include the following:
- Dry mouth
- Fatigue and Drowsiness
- Reduced appetite
- Weight fluctuation
In addition to these side effects, there’s also a risk of CBD-drug interactions. Some medications come with a “grapefruit warning”. These are drugs that interact with even small quantities of grapefruit, affecting the enzymes that break down these drugs. CBD also affects these enzymes and, as such, should not be taken alongside these medications due to possible complications.
Drugs that shouldn’t be taken with CBD include:
- Cholesterol medications (Statins)
- High blood pressure medications
- Heart rhythm medications
- Anti-infection medications
- Mood medications
- Blood thinners
- Pain medications
- Erectile dysfunction and prostate medications
- Organ transplant rejection medications
- Crohn’s disease medications
Key Takeaways on the Benefits of CBD Oil for the Elderly
Old age comes with its own quirks as well. Lots of health conditions have been more prevalent among the older population. CBD has shown itself as a natural and safe alternative to pharmaceutical medications when it comes to addressing the problems linked to aging.
A good number of studies, surveys and other scientific evidence show that CBD does help in the treatment of conditions associated with seniors, such as pain, inflammation, arthritis, and even sleep disorders, and neurodegenerative conditions.
That said, it’s important you speak with your physician and do some research before you try any CBD oil product.
Do we have any seniors among our readers? Give us a shout in the comment section and tell us how CBD has improved your quality of life!
- Zuardi AW. Cannabidiol: from an inactive cannabinoid to a drug with a wide spectrum of action. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. (2008).
- Campos AC, Moreira FA, Gomes FV, Del Bel EA, Guimarães FS. Multiple mechanisms are involved in the large-spectrum therapeutic potential of cannabidiol in psychiatric disorders. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. (2012).
- Martin-Santos R, Crippa JA, Batalla A, Bhattacharyya S, Atakan Z, Borgwardt S, et al. Acute effects of a single, oral dose of d9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)administration in healthy volunteers. Curr Pharm Des. (2012).
- Schier A. R., Ribeiro N. P., Silva A. C., Hallak J. E., Crippa J. A., Nardi A., E., et al. . Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. (2012).
- Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Zuardi AW, Crippa JA. Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent.Curr Drug Saf. (2011).
Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.
What to Know About CBD Oil For Elderly
CBD is a chemical found in marijuana. CBD doesn’t contain the ingredient that produces a high, which is known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Typically CBD is available as an oil, but CBD is also sold as an extract, a vaporized liquid, and an oil-based capsule. Numerous CBD-infused food, drink, and beauty products are available online.
Many people use CBD oil to curb symptoms of many common health issues, including some elderly people. According to a 2020 nationally representative Consumer Reports survey, 20% of Americans 65 years and older said they’d tried CBD oil, up from 14% from the prior year in 2019. However, it’s important to keep in mind what conditions CBD oil can help and whether it’s safe for the elderly to use.
Is CBD Oil Effective?
Each of us has something called an endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system works to keep you in a stable condition where everything in your body works at its best. For instance, if it is hot outside or if you are exercising vigorously, your endocannabinoid system will help steady your heart rate and keep your body temperature within a healthy range by making you sweat.
Your body works best when everything is balanced, and your endocannabinoid system helps maintain that balance, despite what might be going on in your external environment.
When something is out of balance, like an inflamed joint due to arthritis or injury, CBD oil helps support your endocannabinoid system so your body can better handle and relieve the problem.
Is CBD Oil Safe for Seniors?
We need more research, but CBD oil seems to be an up-and-coming treatment solution for the elderly.
While CBD and THC are both found as parts of the cannabis plant, significantly higher THC amounts are found in marijuana. Some seniors might be prescribed medical marijuana by their doctor, although medical marijuana is not legal in every state, and some people don’t want to experience a “high.” In those cases, CBD can be a great alternative.
CBD doesn’t produce a high, and it’s legal throughout the United States. It’s sourced from a hemp strain of cannabis and contains .3% THC or less. This means you get all of the benefits without having to worry about feeling a high.
Benefits of CBD Oil
There are numerous benefits of CBD oil:
- Relieves arthritis pain
- Relieves chronic pain
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces muscle spasms
- Improves sleep
- Prevents or reduces symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease
- May reduce cancer cell growth
- Reduces nausea and vomiting for cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy
Pain relief. CBD oil has also proven to be an effective, non-habit-forming treatment for pain. One study found that CBD reduces pain 30% more than traditional medication or medical marijuana (THC) alone.
General anxiety and performance anxiety. One study of individuals with a social anxiety disorder and fear of public speaking gave some people a single dose of CBD an hour and a half before they participated in public speaking. Those given the CBD experienced a significant reduction in their anxiety, with less discomfort and stress.
In short, CBD has been proven effective in enhancing the quality of life, preventing cognitive decline, reducing blood pressure in stressful situations, and more.
What to Consider When Buying CBD
Decide why and what form. Think about what you’ll be using CBD for and how you’d prefer to use it. CBD is often available as an oil, pill, drop or lotion.
Consider the amount of THC. Some CBD products contain THC, although it’s in very small amounts. If you’re looking for CBD with no TCH in it at all, consider looking for CBD made from hemp.
Find where it was made. Not all CBD products are made the same way. Colorado has very robust, trusted CBD manufacturing facilities, but if you buy CBD online and it comes from somewhere overseas, it may not have gone through any safety testing.
Read the label. Always read the label of any CBD product to check for additional ingredients that could affect your health or safety.
Stay cautious. Some CBD brands will make claims that CBD can cure cancer or help with heart disease. Huge health claims like that are illegal and are not verified. If a brand is advertising unrealistic benefits, beware.
Risks of CBD Oil
Currently, the only CBD product approved by the Food and Drug Administration is a prescription oil called Epidiolex used to treat epilepsy. Although CBD is currently being studied as a potential treatment for other conditions like Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes, the research is limited.
CBD also carries some potential risks and may cause:
- Dry mouth
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Reduced appetite
- Potential negative interaction with other medications
Because CBD is mostly available as an unregulated supplement, it is challenging to pinpoint effective doses or know exactly what you’re getting. For this reason, it’s important to talk with your doctor before taking CBD.
CBD Awareness Project: “Benefits of CBD.”
Consumer Reports: “A Guide to CBD and Cannabis for Older Adults”, “How to Shop for CBD.”
Journal of pain and symptom management: “Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of THC:CBD extract and THC extract in patients with intractable cancer-related pain.”
Mayo Clinic: “What are the benefits of CBD—and is it safe to use?”
Neuropsychopharmacology: “Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients.”