What’s Going on With Older Cannabis Users and ER Visits?
There seems to be a trend among older cannabis users making more frequent trips to the ER for problems related to their marijuana consumption. In California alone, ER visits among older cannabis users are up some 400% between 2005 and 2019. So what’s going on here?
Increased ER visits could be attributed to any number of things. But according to a recent study out of the University of California San Diego, it would appear as though older medical cannabis users are overestimating their ability to handle the drug. Data seems to indicate that they are not taking it is seriously as other prescription drugs.
A Surge in ER Visits
Data taken from California’s Department of Healthcare Access and Information shows that there were just 366 cannabis-related ER visits in California in 2005. The number jumped to 12,167 in 2019. Such an astounding increase is worthy of scientific scrutiny. We need to know what is happening.
The UC San Diego researchers insist that there is a higher risk of adverse effects when prescribing medical cannabis to older patients for chronic pain management. Likewise, that higher risk is present with all psychoactive substances. This is to say that the researchers did not single out cannabis.
Research data further suggests that older patients are not prepared for the physical effects modern cannabis has on their bodies. Older patients are apparently overly confident in their ability to tolerate cannabis-related impairment. They do not realize that their aging bodies are more sensitive to THC.
Yet another problem, according to researchers, is that marijuana potency has increased over the years. The street level marijuana older chronic pain patients were using recreationally in their youth is not nearly as strong as the commercially produced marijuana that now dominates the medical cannabis market.
Why They Are Visiting the ER
As for the actual incidents sending older cannabis patients to the ER, details vary. Researchers observed an uptick in injuries relating to accidental falls caused by slow reaction times and general marijuana impairment. But that’s not all.
Cannabis use among older patients can increase the risk of delirium, paranoia, and psychosis. Symptoms of all three conditions can send terrified patients to the ER. In addition, medical cannabis can interact negatively with other prescription medications. It can exacerbate pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases as well.
Caution Is Always Best Option
More than two-thirds of the states have made medical cannabis legal within their borders. More than a dozen have given the green light to recreational marijuana. Even with all this new found freedom, caution is still the best option when using cannabis either recreationally or medically.
There is still a lot about cannabis we don’t know. And from a medical standpoint, that means taking things slowly. Treating medical cannabis as any less serious than other prescription medications is a bad move. All medications come with side effects; all have their downsides.
At the Pure Utah medical cannabis pharmacy, pharmacists and staff members urge patients to adopt the slow and steady approach. As one of only 15 cannabis pharmacies in Utah, Pure Utah sees its fair share of new cannabis cardholders who aren’t exactly sure how to proceed.
Regardless of age, a cautious approach is best. It is hard to know exactly how medical cannabis will affect a person until it has been used for at least some length of time. Treating it carelessly, under the assumption that it is completely harmless, only leads to trouble. That appears to be just what’s happening with older medical cannabis patients who are now taking trips to the ER more frequently.