February 20, 2017

"From retirement communities to nursing homes, older Americans are increasingly turning to marijuana for relief from aches and pains."

"Many have embraced it as an alternative to powerful drugs like morphine, saying that marijuana is less addictive, with fewer side effects...."
“If residents are taking it, they are taking it undercover without the staff knowing so it’s not part of their care plan,” said Dr. Cheryl Phillips, senior vice president for public policy and health services for LeadingAge, an industry group representing more than 2,000 nursing homes. “I think that creates a safety problem.”

Fred Miles, a Colorado lawyer who represents nursing home operators, said nursing homes — unlike assisted living facilities — were regulated by the federal government, and were fearful of jeopardizing their Medicare and Medicaid funding....
The linked article (in the NYT) stresses access for pain avoidance and begins and ends with assurances that nobody is getting any affirmative pleasure. The piece begins with a 98-year-old woman who says "I don’t feel high or stoned... All I know is I feel better when I take this." And it ends with an 80-year-old woman who says "It’s got a stigma.... People don’t really believe you’re not really getting high if you take it."

Notice how she takes it for granted that there should be a stigma on getting high. She (and the NYT) want to assure you that the marijuana users used to tug our hearts are not only not using marijuana for the purpose of getting high, they are not even getting high at all.

It's interesting to me that the argument for legalization is so firmly based on puritanism ("the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy").

62 comments:

Gahrie said...

When you're 85, everyday life is similar to being high...does anybody try to make the argument that morphine users don't get high?

I've seen dramatic videos of Parkinson's sufferers whose tremors and shaking are dramatically reduced by marijuana.

damikesc said...

The linked article (in the NYT) stresses access for pain avoidance and begins and ends with assurances that nobody is getting any affirmative pleasure.

Pain and inflammation

Studies have suggested that marijuana is only slightly better than a placebo in reducing acute inflammation, and it may even increase the perception of pain in some patients. When taken in combination with other medications, however, various cannabis-derived drugs have been shown to be moderately effective for reducing chronic neuropathic pain.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/medical-marijuana-how-the-evidence-stacks-up/

Big Mike said...

Of course they're getting high -- if they're in their sixties, seventies, or eighties now then they were in their twenties or early thirties back in the 1960s so they know how it's done. (Was that too much math for you Dumbocrats? I know you think math is hard, but you should have figured out how to use the calculator on your iPhone by now.)

At this point in their lives I'm not inclined to begrudge anyone anything, but in a nursing home I would wonder about the effects of secondhand smoke.

MadisonMan said...

If residents are taking it, they are taking it undercover without the staff knowing

Says something about staffing levels, or about cleanliness.

Bob Ellison said...

Much of the stigma of marijuana use comes from lacing. Marijuana is (used to be?) laced with other drugs, sometimes dangerous ones like PCP. That can convince the user that the weed in use is more powerful than other stuff.

Presumably, with legalization and some degree of regulation, the lacing stigma would subside.

mockturtle said...

Mencken knew nothing about the Puritans. For that matter, Mencken, himself, was a miserable sonofabitch.

Meade said...

Mencken also said, "The normal American of the 'pure-blooded' majority goes to rest every night with an uneasy feeling that there is a burglar under the bed and he gets up every morning with a sickening fear that his underwear has been stolen."

Pianoman said...

One of my golfing buddies is in his 60s and was using marijuana to help with his migraines. He didn't need a lot -- "just a couple of tokes" is how he put it. And he'd only use when he was hurting.

I think he possessed less than an ounce at all times, so he probably didn't run afoul of California laws at the time.

It was all very casual, and the only people that were angry about it were the Neo-Puritan scolds at the local church.

rehajm said...

There is nothing weed can't fix.

Triangle Man said...

Why do you say that the argument for legalization is based on puritanism? The disclaimer that they're not getting high is a response to the opponents of legalization who say that the medical use of marijuana is merely a pretext. It's the opposition to marijuana legalization that is based on puritanism.

Original Mike said...

Don't the 80-somethings know it's a gateway drug?

bagoh20 said...

I need to use some pot, but I promise not to like it.

Bob Boyd said...

The woke American goes to rest every night with an uneasy feeling that there is a Nazi under the bed and gets up every morning with a sickening fear that her underwear has been stolen...by Donald Trump.

Gusty Winds said...

No better cure for a hangover.

mockturtle said...

Although I haven't used the stuff in many years, I voted for its legalization in WA as I've always thought that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Certainly, alcohol is responsible for more deaths and mayhem. There doesn't seem to be any real stigma here in the West.

mockturtle said...

Good one, Bob! ;-)

Meade said...

Yeah, Bob — LOL!

bagoh20 said...

Even if it only gets them high, that's still a pretty good argument for it. An elderly person who because of their condition finds it hard to enjoy much of life suddenly finds something that makes them happy, and produces laughter as well as a good appetite. Sounds like a miracle drug to me, so let's keep it away from them, becuase being virtuous people, we care about them.

Michael K said...

"I've always thought that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol."

But not tobacco, which has always amused me.

It works for nausea from chemotherapy and smoking is better than the THC pill for obvious reasons.

The pain"effect" is probably just the "high."

JAORE said...

I support legalization for a number of reasons. At the very least the horrible waste of money spent on that portion of the war on drugs is awful. Also marijuana IS a gateway drug of sorts. Chances are if you are buying one drug illegally, you are in contact with people that use and sell other illegal drugs.

And how many people in jail first came to the attention of law enforcement due to pot? How's that working out for all of us?

But those that clamor for legalization with the cry that there is no downside to marijuana use are full of it.

bagoh20 said...

What is the argument against an 80 year old, especially a disabled one, getting high?

mockturtle said...

One thing we learned back in the hippie/radical era was that weed, while enjoyable and unifying, was counterproductive. Trying to plan or organize anything when everyone is stoned is futile. And ideas that seemed 'oh, so clever' when stoned didn't stand the light when straight.

bagoh20 said...

"But those that clamor for legalization with the cry that there is no downside to marijuana use are full of it."

Few honest people make such an argument. Almost every drug or therapy has some downside, but I think pot is among the best cost/benefit alternatives. Just look at the alternatives currently being used like opiates. I recommend against use by people with nothing to gain from it, but these people have a lot to gain with almost no risk or cost.

Bob Boyd said...

Correction:

The woke American goes to rest every night with an uneasy feeling that there is a Nazi under the bed and gets up every morning a little disappointed to find her underwear has not been stolen by Donald Trump.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I remember reading some comments on a blog reacting to a story concerning pain medications and people with chronic pain and the DEA. One of the respondents mentioned that they needed their pain meds because they suffered from chronic, debilitating pain and couldn't function without them. Someone responded to that with a harangue about plenty of people have suffered from chronic pain, but had heroically overcome it without using medications.

What a twit. Chronic pain is a medical condition that can be treated. You don't heroically overcome a broken arm by not having it set and wearing a cast. You don't heroically overcome an infection by forgoing antibiotics.

But people get really moralizing about pain medications. While its true that people can get addicted to them, and that is bad, other medications can also have bad side effects.

I Callahan said...

Studies have suggested that marijuana is only slightly better than a placebo in reducing acute inflammation, and it may even increase the perception of pain in some patients. When taken in combination with other medications, however, various cannabis-derived drugs have been shown to be moderately effective for reducing chronic neuropathic pain.

Amen.

All of these ridiculous claims about marijuana being a wonder drug has pushed me past the point of skepticism. The number one most lobbied drug for legalization for the past 40 years is now all of a sudden a painkiller that works better than standard pain meds, treats glaucoma, reverses the effects of tobacco, improves lung health (????), staves off epileptic seizures, keeps cancer from spreading, etc.

How friggin' convenient. Pull my other leg.

Ann Althouse said...

To be fair, there is a concern about old people getting high: They might fall. You don't want to make walking around any more treacherous than it already is.

Bob Boyd said...

It cured my baldness.

Mary Beth said...

Also marijuana IS a gateway drug of sorts. Chances are if you are buying one drug illegally, you are in contact with people that use and sell other illegal drugs.

This has been part of my argument for marijuana legalization for a long time.

JAORE said...

""But those that clamor for legalization with the cry that there is no downside to marijuana use are full of it."

Few honest people make such an argument."

You focus on comparing marijuana to other drugs used per the article. I agree with that. I'm also talking to the point made above by ICallahan. I suppose I should have said unrestricted use of recreational marijuana.

Pot will cure everything! Pot has no societal costs. Driving under the influence? Feh.

Of course many making these claims are not "honest". They just want to continue to get high but to have the last legal issues removed.

Original Mike said...

"This has been part of my argument for marijuana legalization for a long time."

It's probably the strongest argument for legalization.

John said...

I can't believe that with all the horror stories coming out of California, Colorado and Washington states that anyone could support legalization of marijuana even for medical use.

There are a lot of horror stories coming out of those states, aren't there?

I live a fairly sheltered life which is probably why I don't hear of them.

If you don't believe me, believe the federal govt. Or even better "Reefer Madness"

John Henry

John said...

Blogger Michael K said...


The pain"effect" is probably just the "high."

Does it matter why it works? So what if it is just the high that relieves the pain? Suppose it doesn't do anything at all and the pain relief is just placebo effect. Whould that be reason to ban it?

"My body my choice."

It has been almost 50 years since I last smoked any. No desire to do it now, even if it were legal. OTOH, I see nothing particularly harmful in it. If I was in pain or thought it would help in some other way, I'd do it in a heartbeat. At least I would if legal. Since it is now legal locally, I would probably do it even in violation of federal law.

John Henry

Mark said...

Today's older Americans came of age in the 70s and were/are quite comfortable with widespread use of pot, if not partaking in it now and then. Some of them might have even been stoners back in the day or complete burn-outs. Some started smoking weed 40 years ago and have done it every day since.

Hardly a need for all this faux sensationalism.

traditionalguy said...

Multiple Sclerosis patients need it bad. But the old Legalists still find a way to prohibit their using it. And that makes them prouder than proud to deprive those powerless folks. But if a Drug company could still find away to patent it, they would promote it at $1,000 a dose and bribe whomever Politician they needed, and it would be legal in a month.

John said...

A bit OT but not completely:

I got a call a few weeks ago from a person in California who was starting a company to bottle water infused with THC/MJ. He wanted my help in designing and purchasing a bottling line.

We had an interesting chat but his projected volume is too small for me to get involved in. It will be strictly a hand operation. So I left it as You call me, I won't call you.

Then I started wondering what my legal liability would be if I did help him engage in what is a criminal enterprise under federal law. Especially since I would be crossing state lines.

I hate to turn down business but if he does call back I am going to pass him on to a colleague in CA. I've had enough adventures in my life, don't need another. I am the one who would wind up the example if the feds decide to crack down.

John Henry

Michael K said...

Does it matter why it works? So what if it is just the high that relieves the pain? Suppose it doesn't do anything at all and the pain relief is just placebo effect. Whould that be reason to ban it?

No. It probably is placebo plus the high.

I'm OK with legal marijuana after age 18. Before that age there is some evidence of increase risk of schizophrenia.

Bob Ellison said...

John Henry, you would not face liability, especially in the current political climate RE: pot. If I were a product designer working for hire, I'd take it if the money's good.

John said...

Re falling:

Interesting question, Ann. I just asked my son, who did a postdoc in geriatrics, about it. He knows more than anyone should know about elderly falling & mobility and but had not ever looked at MJ in this regard.

I wonder if it would increase falling. Alcohol certainly would but MJ doesn't affect the motor control the same way.

In the late 80's the US Dept of Transportation did a study on the effect of MJ on driving. They had drivers smoke calibrated amounts of weed (from the govt farm in MO) then drive an obstacle course. They found a slight improvement in driving ability. They repeated the study with similar results. Australia also did a study, using a different methodology, and found the same thing.

As I recall, the reasoning was that people under the effects of MJ tend to be more careful.

So I wonder if the 90 year old, high on MJ, would be more careful negating any possible increased falling tendency?

Or they might just sit in front of the TV set all day watching cartoons, going "Oh, wow" and gorging on brownies. Hard to fall out of a recliner.

Which reminds me of this line:

Samuel L Jackson: Girl, smoking pot is going to ruin your ambition.

Brigit Fonda: Not if your ambition is to get high and watch TV all day

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8g3XXLTUpo

John Henry

John said...

Thanks, Bob.

You hit the nail on the head. I doubt the guy has any money to pay what I normally charge. That makes the decision easy.

Now if Coca-Cola decides to do it, that will be a different story.

John Henry

mockturtle said...

In the late 80's the US Dept of Transportation did a study on the effect of MJ on driving. They had drivers smoke calibrated amounts of weed (from the govt farm in MO) then drive an obstacle course. They found a slight improvement in driving ability. They repeated the study with similar results. Australia also did a study, using a different methodology, and found the same thing.

I can only cite my personal experience driving stoned. Stopping at green lights, going well below the speed limit, streets taking on an unfamiliar look. I would not deem driving to be safer under the influence of marijuana.

John said...

Mockturtle:

Cheech and Chong are my go to guys on the safety of smoking and driving:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8pEKwVl9tA

John Henry

mockturtle said...

Thanks, John Henry. I always loved Cheech & Chong. My favorite, I think, was their version of Let's Make a [Dope] Deal. :-D

Bob Ellison said...

Look for Mountain Dew to go first to THC-infused products. Coke may be slow to the post on this.

mockturtle said...

Thanks, John Henry. I always loved Cheech & Chong. My favorite, I think, was their version of Let's Make a [Dope] Deal. :-D

The original, version, that is. I can't find the original version on Youtube.

YoungHegelian said...

"Hey, Mom! Who knew that Grandma could play such a mean air guitar!"

Jim said...

I'm 60. I smoked a lot of pot in high school. I quit in college and then I got a job with a clearance and I was in the random drug pool. I never smoked again for 35 years. I recently retired and had an opportunity to smoke some weed. I did. I didn't like the way it made me feel. Here's why:

When I was 30 I was on Jeopardy!, I won 3X, and I have pretty good GRE and GMAT test scores; genius level. Now that I'm 60, I'll notice when I'm not as quick as I was when I was 20 or 30 and it both annoys me and scares me that it's the big Alzheimer's. Unfortunately, as pleasant as the weed I recently smoked was, it made me feel like my brain was even slower. I hate that. I hate that like the fires of hell. I'll never do it again.

Does anyone else notice this or is it just me?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Nick Swardson: Old People - speeding & drugs

Eddie Iffit: Drugs for the Elderly

damikesc said...

Also marijuana IS a gateway drug of sorts. Chances are if you are buying one drug illegally, you are in contact with people that use and sell other illegal drugs.

I thought that was silly.

But then when I used pot, I had NO problem finding any drug my then-fiancée wanted.

NOW? I don't know a soul who sells pot.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Then I started wondering what my legal liability would be if I did help him engage in what is a criminal enterprise under federal law. Especially since I would be crossing state lines.

The feds put Tommy Chong in prison for just that sort of thing.

http://old.post-gazette.com/localnews/20030912chong0912p5.asp

Fernandinande said...

Original Mike said...
Don't the 80-somethings know it's a gateway drug?


That was covered in the documentary "Little Miss Sunshine":

Frank: You started snorting heroin?

Grandpa: [to young Dwayne] Let me tell ya, don't do that stuff. When you're young, you're crazy to do that shit.

Frank: Well what about you?

Grandpa: What about me? I'm old. When you're old you're crazy not to do it.

SukieTawdry said...

Well, what the heck, why not get high while you're at it? You're in a nursing home fer crissakes, take pleasure where you can find it.

As a long-time user, I can state unequivocally, marijuana is no substitute for opiates.

ALP said...

Althouse resident pothead checking in. My partner uses it for migraines; the nausea is gone immediately, the pain is dialed back. In general, weed doesn't kill pain like pharma painkillers, but for those living with chronic pain, it dials it back and makes it bearable day in day out. Chronic pain puts one in a shitty mood, and it helps with that as well. Friend of mine that's been in several car accidents uses it when she gets to the "I want to scream at everyone" level of pain.

And it helps you sleep with pain issues without the risk of addiction. I have never slept well - my mind races the minute my head hits the pillow. I have chronic issues that flare up with sleep deprivation - god knows the health issues I'd have if I could not sleep as well as I do using cannabis. And the best method is via edibles that take you right to sleepy town with only a very short stop at "High Village". You really can't stay awake long enough to even say you were high. YEAH cannabis!

Achilles said...

"I think he possessed less than an ounce at all times, so he probably didn't run afoul of California laws at the time."

An ounce is easily enough for a month probably more for a casual user.

Achilles said...

Blogger bagoh20 said...

"Few honest people make such an argument. Almost every drug or therapy has some downside, but I think pot is among the best cost/benefit alternatives. Just look at the alternatives currently being used like opiates. I recommend against use by people with nothing to gain from it, but these people have a lot to gain with almost no risk or cost."

Reefer madness started at the end of prohibition. A massive federal task force was created to interdict alcohol and repeal put them out of a job. Reefer madness was all about preserving a rice bowl.

Little has changed since except now drug companies that make a lot of money off selling opioids are in on prohibition too. States are making a lot of money taxing it now so there will be a crony showdown in a lot of places.

SukieTawdry said...

mockturtle said...
One thing we learned back in the hippie/radical era was that weed, while enjoyable and unifying, was counterproductive. Trying to plan or organize anything when everyone is stoned is futile. And ideas that seemed 'oh, so clever' when stoned didn't stand the light when straight.


Isn't it the truth. It's one of the reasons kids and young adults should wait to indulge. You need to acquire some mental discipline first. If I had something that needed doing and I really, really didn't want to do it, I knew with just a few tokes, I could blow it off with (a false sense of) impunity. And besides, the brain isn't fully developed until age 25 or so. Introducing altering substances before that seems ill-advised.

M15ery said...

When I was 30 I was on Jeopardy!, I won 3X, and I have pretty good GRE and GMAT test scores; genius level. Now that I'm 60, I'll notice when I'm not as quick as I was when I was 20 or 30 and it both annoys me and scares me that it's the big Alzheimer's. Unfortunately, as pleasant as the weed I recently smoked was, it made me feel like my brain was even slower. I hate that. I hate that like the fires of hell. I'll never do it again.

There's some truth to that. In my experience marijuana can make you feel slow in certain areas of cognition, but it can be very helpful in other areas, say creativity in right-brain pursuits. One thing to look for is sativas vs indicas. The lines get blurred with so many hybrids, but the general rule is that indicas are "heavy," suitable for vegging in front of the TV, whereas sativas can be very stimulating.

Michael Pollan wrote about marijuana's effects in The Botany of Desire. One reason why artists like it is because it temporarily obliterates your sense of short term memory and familiarity with normal things. He likens it to driving a car: when you first learn to drive you're hyper-aware of your surroundings and actions in the driver's seat. Over time your driving becomes "automatic," to the point where you're barely consciously aware that you're driving. Taking marijuana is like going back to 16 when you were first learning to drive: suddenly you are hyper-aware. Listen to an old and familiar song while stoned-- it suddenly sounds fresh. You hear more of the instruments and details because you're actually listening to it, as opposed to half-relying on your memory of the song. The same goes for visual art.

Meade said...

"And besides, the brain isn't fully developed until age 25 or so. Introducing altering substances before that seems ill-advised."

I totally agree. Children are generally better off without sugar and drugs.

For most adults, I suspect alcohol is their primary "gateway drug" experience. And just like alcohol, cannabis is eventually a dead end — fun at first but then it becomes little more than an unhealthy habit, toleranceincreases, and more and more of the substance is needed to feel high. Smokers, like drinkers, often become dull, depressed, lackluster, emotionally unstable, stupid and clumsy. And poorer.

Because I'm normally an everyday ebullient, cheerful, and lighthearted sort of guy, people often mistake me to be under the influence of some substance. I'm not but that's when I like to paraphrase Firesign Theater: I'm high alright, but not on false drugs. I'm high on the real thing — powerful gasoline, a clean windshield, a shoe shine...
...and LSD.

No but seriously, LSD is the only so-called "recreational" drug that is truly recreational. Think about it. It's very cheap and easy to make. Plus it promotes good health and intellectual curiosity. You can't overdose on it and you can't build up a tolerance.

Now that all the old original hippies are mostly dead or at least substantially diminished (mostly from smoking bad dope and drinking cheap wine), legalizing LSD might be highly beneficial for society.

Fabi said...

I got some laced Rice Krispie squares for my Dad when he was going through chemo. (He was as against illicit drugs as a person could be.) He had no nausea, maintained an appetite, and was in excellent spirits throughout his treatment. I swore to him I'd never tell a soul. I think there was an Internet exclusion to that pledge.

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cathy said...

Or maybe the modern belief in happiness left someone not able to admit they needed a little help from the nature gods.

Darrell said...

I've seen dramatic videos of Parkinson's sufferers whose tremors and shaking are dramatically reduced by marijuana.

I've seen dramatic videos of Parkinson's sufferers whose tremors and shaking are dramatically reduced by the color blue. Like Hillary's special lenses.