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Administering cannabis in a cautious and controlled manner has improved the lives of many of their octogenarian patients
Israeli researchers are setting out to determine a roadmap for using cannabis as a treatment for senior patients with ailments such as chronic pain, lack of appetite, insomnia and sleep disturbances, post-traumatic stress disorder, and nausea.

Scientists at Cannabis Clinical Research Institute at Soroka University Medical Center and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) believe that the implementation of their newly-developed “pragmatic” treatment protocol into clinical practice could help “evaluate the benefit of cannabis treatment” and even reduce the use of drugs with more potentially harmful side effects such as benzodiazepines and opioids.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, the study, titled “Medical Cannabis for Older Patients — Treatment Protocol and Initial Results,” makes suggestions regarding cannabinoid treatment for aging adults. The suggestions were developed in partnership with NiaMedic Healthcare & Research Services Ltd, although researchers asserted that the company had no say in the collection or analysis of data.

Scientists say that by administering cannabinoids THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol, the intoxicating component of cannabis) and CBD (cannabidiol, a psychoactive and non-intoxicating compound in the cannabis plant) in a cautious and controlled manner has vastly improved the lives of many of their octogenarian patients.

“Since well-established and evaluated protocols for treatment of older adults with medical cannabis do not exist, we developed our own approach based on close follow-up of effects, adverse events, and slow introduction of THC oil, CBD oil or a combination,” BGU Faculty of Health Sciences and Soroka Cannabis Clinical Research Institute Dr. Ran Abuhasira said in a press release.

For the study, 184 elderly patients with a median age of 82 began cannabinoid-based treatments at a particular geriatric clinic. Six months after the beginning of the trial, more than 58 per cent of patients were still using cannabis as a treatment.

Out of that 58 per cent, almost 89 per cent reported experiencing moderate to significant improvement with regards to their general condition. But almost 34 per cent reported experiencing adverse effects, such as dizziness and fatigue.

The protocols set by the researchers urge physicians to take extra caution in the cannabinoid-based treatment of senior patients, noting that complications such as medication interactions, increased cardiovascular risk, and other issues can occur in older users.

“Our experience shows that cannabis has the potential to lead to a reduction in the use of [certain] medications,” said Dr. Abuhasira.

“Therefore, we call for the implementation of our protocol in clinical practice to evaluate the benefit of cannabis treatment.”

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Written by Emma Spears