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Over the course of six years, a team of Canadian researchers assessed the cannabis consumption habits of nearly 10,000 patients aged 65 years and older. Each of these patients was legally using cannabis that was prescribed to them by a doctor under Canada's medical marijuana program. Researchers asked each subject to anonymously report what kind of cannabis they used, how frequently they used it, and whether or not it helped treat their condition. Subjects were also asked to report their use of other prescription drugs.
Over 80 percent of subjects said that they used cannabis extracts instead of flower, and nearly 84 percent said they used medical marijuana products that contained more CBD than THC. Nearly three-quarters of patients (73.6 percent) said that cannabis effectively reduced their pain symptoms, 64.5 percent reported improvements in sleep quality, and 52.8 percent said that medical pot improved their overall mood.
A significant proportion of patients also said they reduced their dosages of prescription medications after beginning to use cannabis. Nearly 20 percent of subjects reported that they reduced their usage of benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium, and 35.6 percent said they cut down their intake of opioids.
“Among older adults, medical cannabis is used more often by women, with CBD-containing cannabis oils being the most commonly used,” the study authors wrote. “Users reported improved pain, sleep, and mood symptoms at follow-up after cannabis use... Our results also suggest the preferences for type and composition of cannabis used is shifting away from herbal cannabis to cannabis oil.”
The present study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that medical marijuana can serve as an effective replacement for dangerous pharmaceuticals. A study from last year reports that Canadian doctors prescribed one-fifth as many opioids during the first year of Canada's adult-use pot legalization. And another study from 2019 reports that Canadians who used cannabis every day were 50 percent less likely to use illegal opioids.
Similar findings have been reported in US states that have legalized medical and adult-use cannabis. A study from 2020 reports that rates of opioid prescriptions are 20 percent lower in states with legal medical marijuana programs, and a study from last year found that Florida's medical pot patients have significantly cut back their use of opioids and other pharmaceuticals. Other studies have found that medical pot can improve the quality of life for chronically ill patients, and that cannabis users in general are healthier and happier than non-users.
Dozens of other studies have confirmed that cannabis can help patients reduce their dependence on opioids and benzodiazepines. These findings are especially critical given that over 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year. Researchers have found that rates of drug overdoses have decreased by as much as 30 percent in states where adult-use cannabis is legal, however, further supporting the evidence that cannabis reform is a far more effective deterrent to opioid abuse than prohibition.