Health & Wellness

Talking to Older Parents About CBD

By Mary Sauer
Kristen Sturdivant

It may be easy to make assumptions about who is turning to cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, for relief from hard-to-treat chronic conditions. It makes sense to believe that older generations might stigmatize the use of CBD because of the psychoactive effects caused by marijuana. However, recent research has found that older adults are more open to the use of CBD for management of medical conditions. One 2018 study published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research found that 43 percent of cannabidiol users were age 55 or older, with adults age 65 and older making up 19 percent of users.

A grandmother, age 72, told the New York Times she turns to CBD for relief from pain caused by arthritis. A woman, 61, told the AARP how CBD helped her husband sleep, offering relief from spasms and pain when he was fighting cancer. And these are just a few examples of how CBD could help adults over the age of 60.

Your health changes as you grow older and not all patients are able to find the relief they need from their symptoms using conventional medications. Additionally, these medications may come with side effects that negatively impact the quality of their life. If you, or your aging parent, are curious about using CBD oil to manage or treat conditions related to aging, here’s what you need to know about buying CBD for your parents, how it might help, and how to make sure it is safe for use.

Where to Buy CBD for Your Parents

The only FDA approved form of CBD is Epidiolex, which is indicated for use for hard-to-treat seizure disorders, specifically Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Other CBD products that are sold through dispensaries or online stores are sold over-the-counter and are not regulated by the FDA. This doesn’t mean they aren’t safe. It simply means that the adult children searching for the right product for their parents will need to know what they are looking for before they make a purchase.

According to Rachna Patel, MD, a doctor who uses CBD oil and medical marijuana to help patients manage chronic conditions, lab reports are the only way to determine the quality of a product. The details can be found in lab documents typically shared on the manufacturer’s website. If a manufacturer or provider isn’t openly sharing these reports, they may have something to hide, she says. These reports are conducted by unbiased, third parties, providing consumers with the information they need to select safe and effective CBD.

“When it’s an unregulated industry, anything goes,” she explains. “You could be sold a bottle of CBD oil that has no CBD oil in it, without knowing it. You could be sold a CBD oil that has negligible amounts of CBD and you could be sold a bottle that has high amounts of THC.”

[ Read more about precautions you need to take in an unregulated industry ]

As you read these reports, Patel suggests you ask the following questions to determine the quality and safety of that specific product.

  • Has this CBD oil been tested for pesticides? There are two commonly used pesticides on cannabis plants, says Patel, advising patients to check for Myclobutanil and Bifenazate before purchasing CBD.
  • Has this CBD oil been tested for fungus and bacteria? Aging adults have compromised immune systems, and accidental exposure to E-coli, salmonella, and aspergil can be avoided by checking lab reports for testing, according to Patel.
  • Has this CBD oil been tested for heavy metals? Cannabis plants are bioaccumulators, says Patel, which means they absorb any heavy metals present in the soil where they are grown. Before buying CBD oil, make sure it has been tested for heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium.
  • Which solvent was used to abstract the CBD? Solvents are used to extract CBD oil from the plant. Hydrocarbon solvents like butane and propane aren’t considered to be safe, so look for oils that have been extracted using carbon dioxide or alcohol.
  • What is the amount of cannabinoids in this CBD oil? This includes checking the amount of cannabinoid oil in the product and making sure the THC concentration is below the legal amount of .03 percent.

How CBD Could Help People Over 60

While research on the usefulness of CBD for managing epilepsy is extensive, the medical community is still working to determine the effectiveness of CBD for other medical conditions. As research continues, CBD has shown some promise as an option for managing the symptoms or treating a few chronic conditions associated with growing older.

Although research hasn’t determined that cannabidiol is effective for improving the symptoms of Parkinson’s, it may be appropriate as an added therapy for these patients. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reported improved quality of life scores in patients with Parkinson’s using CBD.

Individuals suffering from chronic pain associated with arthritis may find relief by using CBD. A 2016 study in the European Journal of Pain shared that improvement of inflammation was noted in arthritic rats treated with topical CBD.

Although research has been done on the use of CBD for treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s, it has not been conclusive, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. Their foundation website outlines concerns about memory loss associated with the use of marijuana-derived products and reports that research has not definitely found improved symptoms when used in the dementia patients.

It isn’t common for adults to experience decreased sleep as they grow older. Initial research has found cannabidiol oil to improve sleep for patients who are dealing with anxiety or kept up because of chronic pain, according to a research review in the journal Current Psychiatric Reports.

Lastly, CBD has shown promise for those who need to manage symptoms caused by cancer or cancer treatment. A 2010 study found CBD use was associated with decreased nausea and vomiting when compared to patients using standard treatment of these symptoms. The National Cancer Institute reports that CBD can improve the side of effects of cancer or the symptoms associated with cancer treatment, including nausea, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, and pain. They also note that CBD may slow down tumor growth in certain cancers, saying the further research needs to be conducted to provide conclusive results.

CBD and Safety

One of the most attractive aspects of CBD is that is typically a safe option with very few side effects, according to the World Health Organization. Although adverse reactions are not common, it is important to be aware that some individuals may experience side effects. These side effects could include vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, changes in mood, and dry mouth.

Before your parent begins use of CBD, it is important to consider that they may be taking a medication that negatively interacts with CBD. Specifically, studies the FDA has done on Epidiolex have found that CBD oil negatively interacts with valproic acid, a medication commonly used by those experience seizures. The use of these two medications at the same time could cause minor liver injury, according to Patel.

In general, it is recommended that you or your parent speak with a doctor with knowledge of CBD oil before beginning use. They can help you look closely are your parent’s current prescriptions to check for potential interactions and monitor CBD use for side effects or adverse reactions.

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