“The goal with medical marijuana is to find the dose that gives a therapeutic benefit without a high, or slowing reaction time or causing sedation,” Martins-Welch said. “To find that right dose, we start low and go slow.”
In fact, it’s important to work with a doctor because there’s a “therapeutic window” with THC, the active component in marijuana that causes the high, according to Dr. Mark Wallace, a board member of the American Pain Society.
If you get a dose that’s within that window, the pain is relieved. If you get too little, you won’t get pain relief, and if you go over the therapeutic window, pain is actually worsened, Wallace explained.
The study included a 20-question survey of nearly 150 seniors who had used medical marijuana for chronic pain. The seniors had received their medical marijuana from dispensaries in New York or Minnesota.
The average age of the seniors was 61 to 70, and 54 percent were female. Many (45 percent) used a vaporized oil in an e-cigarette device. Twenty-eight percent used a medical marijuana pill.
Twenty-one percent said they used medical marijuana daily, while 23 percent said they used it twice a day. Another 39 percent said they used it more than twice a day, the researchers noted.
About half the time, medical marijuana had been recommended by a doctor. One-quarter of the seniors decided to try medical marijuana at the urging of a friend or family member. Almost all — 91 percent — would recommend medical marijuana to someone else.
When asked how medical marijuana affected their pain levels, the seniors reported going from a 9 (on a pain scale of zero to 10) down to 5.6 a month after starting the medical marijuana.
Wallace said he’s seen many positive results from the use of medical marijuana in his patients.
“The geriatric population is my fastest-growing patient population. With medical marijuana, I’m taking more patients off opioids,” he said.
“There’s never been a reported death from medical marijuana, yet there are 19,000 deaths a year from prescription opioids. Medical cannabis is probably safer than a lot of drugs we give,” Wallace said.