Seniors/Aging: Plenty to consider before taking marijuana

Gary was diagnosed with dementia three years ago. With his dementia progressing, and mood changes and insomnia becoming more frequent, his family is wondering whether Cannabis would improve his mood.

Cannabis Sativa is the formal name of the plant often referred to as ‘marijuana.’ Many different types of products can be derived from different parts of the cannabis plants. The viable seeds, leaves and/or flowers of cannabis plant are referred to as Marijuana.

Marijuana was legalized for medical use in Canada in 2001. Now, with the impending legalization of recreational marijuana this summer, Canadians are curious to know whether cannabis-derived products are effective and safe for people with a variety of health conditions.

Cannabis plants contain several active compounds, collectively referred to as cannabinols, in varying amounts. The best-known of these compounds are THC (tetrahydrocannbinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is the compound responsible for many of the popularly associated effects of cannabis, including a sense of euphoria or “high.”

THC is often prescribed for those suffering from severe nausea during chemotherapy treatment, and those with loss of appetite due to HIV/AIDS or other medical conditions.

However, CBD does not appear to have the same intoxicating effects as THC, so it is often used in an oil-based form to treat chronic health conditions, especially childhood epilepsy unresponsive to medical treatment. There is some evidence that CBD may be effective for cancer-associated pain, anxiety and depression, and pain associated with Multiple Sclerosis.

Several studies have examined both the effects of THC and CBD on dementia, while others have looked at the effect of cannabinoids in general.

A few clinical trials have shown that cannabis or its components have minimal benefits in managing some symptoms of the condition, such as agitation and aggression.

A few other clinical trials have assessed the effects of cannabinoids on neuropsychiatric or behavioural symptoms of dementia. However, scientific reviews have found that the trials have generally been small or of low quality, making it difficult to come to an informed conclusion.

However, no studies or trials have looked into the effects of cannabis or its components on the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease in people.

Very often, experimental drugs that yield positive results in lab studies and animal studies perform poorly in human trials.

It is also worth noting that many of these studies have involved a particular component of cannabis in isolation. Even if one component is found to influence dementia risk, it doesn’t necessarily mean that taking cannabis would have the same effect.

There is also a large amount of variation in the levels of THC and CBD in different strains of the plant so the effects could depend on the type of cannabis used.

Cannabis should not be used if you have serious liver, kidney, heart, or lung disease, or if you have a personal or family history of a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychosis or depression.

Moreover, Cannabinoids can interact with several medications including sleeping pills, tranquilizers, pain medications, allergy/cold medications, some antidepressants, some heart medications, some stomach-acid medications etc. and cause serious adverse reactions. Please consult your family physician before you start taking cannabis.

Padmaja Genesh, who holds a bachelor degree in medicine and surgery as well as a bachelor degree in Gerontology, has spent several years teaching and working with health care agencies. A past resident of Red Deer, and a past board member of Red Deer Golden Circle, she is now a Learning Specialist at the Alzheimer Society of Calgary. Please send your comments to

Just Posted

City of Burnaby issues eviction notice to protesters at Kinder Morgan terminal

BURNABY, B.C. — The City of Burnaby is evicting protesters from a… Continue reading

The Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love’ adapted for picture book

NEW YORK — Two new children’s books will add pictures to the… Continue reading

B.C. homeowner groups can fine defiant short-term rental hosts $1,000 a day

VANCOUVER — Homeowners groups in British Columbia will soon be able to… Continue reading

Zuckerberg clarifies statements on treatment of fake news

NEW YORK — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is clarifying his stance pertaining… Continue reading

Greenpeace members climbing Olympic Stadium tower in Montreal

MONTREAL — At least three Greenpeace members are climbing the outside of… Continue reading

WATCH: Global FMX at Westerner Days

There are three freestyle motocross shows a day at Westerner Park this week

Ottawa police investigating fireworks incident involving fans at TFC-Fury match

Ottawa police are investigating a fire that delayed Wednesday night’s Canadian Championship… Continue reading

Pay down debt or save money? How to allocate your cash

It’s one of the most common questions financial advisers hear: should I… Continue reading

Rivers dry and fields dust, Iranian farmers turn to protest

VARZANEH, Iran — The small group of Iranian farmers gathered around their… Continue reading

‘Brady Bunch’ house for sale for nearly $1.9M

LOS ANGELES — The home featured in the opening and closing scenes… Continue reading

Study links air pollution to drop in national park visitors

DENVER — Visitors appear to be steering clear of some U.S. national… Continue reading

Banff’s bathroom bears returned to the park after 15 months of rehab in Ontari

Three cubs found abandoned in a washroom along the Trans-Canada Highway in… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month