A Coalition of Canadian Physicians Is Developing Medical Marijuana Guidelines for Seniors

As medical marijuana becomes increasingly popular among elderly Canadians, a  group of physicians are taking steps to make sure seniors get the advice they need about cannabis.

The Canadian Coalition for Seniors' Mental Health has started developing guidelines to help seniors that are curious about medical marijuana. The guidelines aim to answer questions seniors might have like how cannabis will interact with other medications and common side effects of medical marijuana (including increased heart rate).

The coalition intends to provide these guidelines to physicians so that they can advise elderly patients. One spokesman said the new guidelines are intended to fill a major gap in cannabis education.

"The marketing of marijuana has really overshadowed the science," - Rand Teed, a Regina-based drug and alcohol counselor who is part of the coalition - told CBC. "The information that doctors have received so far has been quite confusing for them in many cases."

The coalition is comprised of nine physicians from across the country, whose research is being funded by Health Canada. They hope to have their new guidelines ready by the end of the year. For now, the coalition advises physicians to refrain from prescribing medications containing THC, the part of marijuana that gets you high, and instead focus on the non-psychoactive compound CBD.

The coalition stresses that specific guidelines are needed to elderly Canadians because their needs and concerns are significantly different from those of other cannabis consumers.

"Seniors are more at risk of experiencing harm related to cannabis simply because of age-related changes that they experience," said Dr. Amy Porath -Director of Research at the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. "We hope this project puts the spotlight on this issue," added Porath, who is leading the team of researchers developing the new guidelines.

Providing that expert advice could significantly improve the quality of life for countless seniors as studies suggest that cannabis is a safe and effective alternative to opioid-based drugs and other common medications. 

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