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Advocates say marijuana makes them better parents, but a new study links pot use with more punitive parenting

Advocates say marijuana makes them better parents, but a new study links pot use with more punitive parenting

Parents who unwind with a joint are more likely to discipline than non-substance users, new research found.

Parents who unwind with a joint are more likely to discipline than non-substance users, new research found.
Thomson Reuters
  • Marijuana is increasingly popular among Americans, and parents are no exception. Some say it makes them better moms and dads.
  • But new research suggests parents who use marijuana discipline their children more often than parents who don’t use substances.
  • Nearly all parents surveyed who used marijuana also reported using alcohol. Those who used more than one substance were most likely to use discipline, particularly physical discipline like spanking.
  • The study only showed correlation, not causation. Researchers said parents may be using marijuana to relieve stress, mental health issues, or physical pain, which could also factor into disciplinary habits.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

Although marijuana is becoming increasingly legal and popular across the U.S. for its relaxation and pain-relief potential, new research suggests cannabis might not chill you out, at least when it comes to your parenting style.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, found that parents who use marijuana are more likely to discipline their kids than parents who don’t toke. This includes physical discipline like spanking, as well as nonviolent discipline like timeouts or taking away privileges, according to the study, published July 17 in the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions.

Read more: ‘[People] just assume you’re going to be this deadbeat mom:’ As parental marijuana use climbs, some moms say they’ve been judged for using the drug

The study examined survey data from 3,023 parents in California about their drug use in the past year and in their lifetimes, and how often they used nonviolent discipline, corporal punishment, and physical abuse in their parenting. The researchers found that parents who used any drug (alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine, or others) disciplined their children more frequently that those who abstained from drug use.

It’s not surprising that parents who drink or smoke meth might lose patience with their children. And indeed, parents who reported boozing in the past year or taking meth ever were most likely to have a punitive parenting style.

But marijuana, generally believed to have a calming effect, was also linked to parents who punish. An increase in discipline was even more prominent when parents reported both weed and alcohol use.

Researchers did not look at whether parents were using drugs during specific incidents, or compare moms to dads. And, while, of course, there are differences between hitting a child and giving him or her a time-out, for the purposes of this study, researchers did not assess whether the disciplinary behavior was good or bad, or what the outcome might be. Instead, the study focused on trends in how often parents used discipline, and how it was connected to their substance use.

The vast majority of parents who use marijuana also drink alcohol

Parents who advocate for marijuana use have argued that smoking cannabis shouldn’t be more stigmatized than indulging in an adult beverage, as many “wine moms” do.

“‘Mommy needs a joint’ should be just as socially acceptable as ‘Mommy needs a glass of wine,’” wrote Kaycee Lei Cuesta, aka The Cannavist Mom, on her blog. Cuesta and other “marijuana moms” were featured in a Today show spotlight on whether pot promotes better parenting.

But the new study showed that marijuana moms and wine moms might be one in the same. Of the marijuana-using parents, 92% also reported alcohol consumption in the past year. “We have this conception that alcohol users are different from marijuana users, but they’re not. It’s the same people,” Bridget Freisthler, professor of social work at Ohio State University and author of the study, told INSIDER.

While the alcohol use among pot-users could contribute to their disciplinary style, the frequency of physical abuse was 0.5 times greater for parents who reported using both substances in the past year than it was among those who only drank.

“Poly-substance use” of any kind was problematic, the researchers found. Parents who had a history of using different drugs, including alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine, and other drugs like cocaine or heroin also reported using the most punishment, including both physical and nonviolent punishment. And when it came specially to physical abuse, those with a history of using more than one substance were 1.45 times more likely to have used it as punishment.

The research doesn’t indicate that weed causes parents to punish

More research is needed to fully understand how marijuana use affects parenting. “There hasn’t been a lot of research in this area, we don’t have a lot of empirical evidence to say how marijuana affects parenting. There’s llittle evidence of the long-term effects,” Freisthler said.

She cautioned that while the study’s results show a connection between marijuana use and discipline, but that doesn’t mean getting high makes you more likely to hit your kids. Plus, the study relied on survey data, which requires people to tell the truth about their drug use habits and parenting behaviors.

Still, the study suggests that parents who have had a stressful day or experience physical or mental health problems may resort to discipline more often, and these same parents may choose to unwind or seek relief in a joint, a cocktail, or both. “It might be that someone’s had a particularly stressful day,” Freisthler said. “But [this study] tells me that parents who are prone to use substances are prone to parenting differently.”

Regardless of the cause, understanding parents’ marijuana use can help social workers provide resources when necessary and ultimately help the kids involved. Freistthler said her colleagues have suggested something needing something like a “designated parent” the same way there are designated drivers. “We know a lot of these parenting behaviors usually don’t lead to good outcomes for children,” she said.

Read more:

What every mom should know about using marijuana while breastfeeding

8 incredible facts about the booming US marijuana industry

Should drug prices be regulated or decided by competition?

Should drug prices be regulated or decided by competition?

The debate rages on about how to put in place a price control mechanism to regulate drug prices to make medicines more affordable for Malaysians.

Malaysia’s pharmaceutical market is dominated by prescription drugs that account for approximately 60% of the pharmaceutical market share by value.

As there is no price control mechanism for pharmaceuticals in Malaysia, drug prices are not regulated and it is left to market forces to determine the prices.

Medicine procurement in the public sector is through volume-based national tenders, where the government picks up the tab and patients get their medicines free or at a nominal fee.

But prices in the private sector are solely determined by free market forces.

Medicine prices and mark-ups (or profit margins) for both innovator and generic drugs have been observed to be higher in Malaysia than in other countries, sometimes by as much as 400%!

These high prices, coupled with other out-of-pocket medical-related expenses, are impeding accessibility to treatment, resulting in catastrophic outcomes for patients.

In May 2019, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the ministry will use external reference pricing to benchmark drug prices in Malaysia, choosing the three lowest prices and averaging them to determine the ceiling price.

But will imposing a ceiling price provide a solution and satisfy all stakeholders?

The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) organised its first annual National Pharmacists Convention n April 26-28, 2019, with the theme “Empowering Pharmacists in a New Healthcare Landscape”.

One of the highlights of the convention was the Medicine Pricing Forum, which saw participation from various organisations in the industry.

The panel comprised of MPS president Amrahi Buang, Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia (PhAMA) president Chin Keat Chyuan, Malaysian Organisation of Pharmaceutical Industries (MOPI) exco member Diong Sing Peng, Malaysian Association for Pharmaceutical Suppliers (MAPS) president Lim Teng Chyuan, non-profit policy research organisation Third World Network (TWN) programmes director Chee Yoke Ling and Health Ministry (MOH) Pharmacy Practice and Development Division deputy director Salbiah Mohd Salleh.

Here are excerpts from the lively forum, moderated by MPS treasurer Lim Jack Shen.

Do you think price control should be implemented in Malaysia?

Chin: For PhAMA, we want to make sure our innovative medicines are made accessible to all and we fight to collaborate with key stakeholders.

Whether or not we agree on regulating the price is highly subjective.

When we look at affordability, how do we define it and how do we separate affordability versus innovation?

Diong: Medicine pricing is very complicated and we are not against or for it, until further clarity is given.

Does pricing result in more or less accessibility for medicine? It could turn out to be the other way round where accessibility could be an issue.

For retailers, for example, if you run a shop, you’ve got costs and expenses. If your shop is at a high-end place, the cost is much higher than small towns.

No one hat fits all. Generic medicine already faces a lot of competition. We have big and small manufacturers, and we all have different costs.

Chin: Based on statistics of out-of-pocket healthcare spending by private patients, 14% is from medicine, so 86% has nothing to do with medicine – it comes from many other areas.

Ultimately, what are we trying to achieve? Is medicine price the only one thing to make drugs accessible? Do you need to regulate it based on the percentage?

In 2017, the total government healthcare spending was roughly RM57.4 billion and only 8% was spent on medicine, so a large portion of it is not medicine.

Amrahi: The price issue has always been there and we have had discussions with all parties.

If you don’t get an itemised bill, how are you going to know what is the reality?

Teng Chyuan: I am for lower prices, but where are the price points that are high?

If you look at the study done by the government, mark-ups range from 24% to 400%, and analyses show that high mark-ups are from generics!

We are here to make prices low, but the 400% is not coming from a monopoly, but from a captive market, i.e. an artificial monopoly.

And the price points that are high are not in retail or independent pharmacies!

If you want to implement a price, think of protecting the small players. The big players, such as hospital pharmacies, can survive because they have money.

A hospital pharmacy can also be turned into a cost centre, rather than a profit centre. They are there to attract patients to their hospitals, and have other services to generate revenue.

The Malaysia Competition Commission gave 12 recommendations when it comes to helping lowering prices, but I fail to see why medicine price is the only focus.

Can you give us an update on the model?

Salbiah: The model we have proposed after we had a briefing session with all the stakeholders has two levels of control, i.e. setting the ceiling price for the wholesale price and the consumer price.

The scope of coverage will be for single-source products and for single-source generics in the market.

The ceiling wholesale price – that is the price purchased by dispensing outlets such as private practitioners, private hospitals and other private healthcare facilities – is for medicines under the MOH-gazetted list.

Currently, there is a Consumer Price Guide on our MOH website, which consists of 2,000+ items, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, though only 20% are prescription drugs.

Now, we’re looking at ceiling prices for prescription drugs only – those whose registry number starts with MAL and ends with the suffix A.

There are about 1,000 products, but we’re still gleaning and trying to make sure whether it’s supposed to be price-controlled.

When we cap the maximum for wholesale and consumers, it means you can sell lower than the maximum to the consumer, but not more than the price gazetted, which is wrong.

The supplier will then have to adjust how much percentage he wants to make on profit.

We are not fixing anything. We are just capping the price because our current dual system of private and public has not changed.

We cannot interfere unless the national health insurance is introduced; then, we’ll be more stringent in terms of pricing.

By 2020, we hope to come up with a list of all medicine prices, to be transparent and to be shared with consumers.

Drug prices, medicine, government regulation, free market, capitalism, generic drugs, biosimilars, innovator, pharmaceutical company, pharmaceutical industry, community pharmacist, Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, Amrahi Buang, Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia, PhAMA, Chin Keat Chyuan, Malaysian Organisation of Pharmaceutical Industries, MOPI, Diong Sing Peng, Malaysian Association for Pharmaceutical Suppliers, MAPS, Lim Teng Chyuan, Third World Network, TWN, Chee Yoke Ling, Salbiah Mohd Salleh, Star2.com

Listening to Teng Chyuan (with microphone) speak during the forum are (from left) Salbiah, Amrahi, Chee, Diong and Chin. — S.S.KANESAN/The Star.

In 2016, a contextual analysis on the Malaysian healthcare system conducted by MOH with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, showed that public sector outcomes are better than private sector outcomes. Is it because of the dispensing separation (DS) system within the hospital (where only pharmacists provide medicine, not the doctors)?

Amrahi: The only sector that does not have DS is the private general practitioners (GPs).

This is challenging because on the public side, there is some form of control, but in the private, it is free for all – you can see what is happening is really chaotic.

Teng Chyuan: The biggest problem we are hearing is that hospital charges for medicines are very high, so even with DS, you don’t get low prices.

These patients who go to private hospitals are in a captive market – there is no free market.

There will be a lot of political opposition when it comes to DS, that is the truth.

Amrahi: The government is not going to change the system, so how are you going to handle the private sector? We still need to have a hybrid system.

What the government should do is ensure doctors give prescriptions without the patient asking.

Salbiah: Giving a prescription, with or without DS is the same. The patient will see the doctor, who will then issue a prescription.

At that point, the doctor will ask the patient if he would like to buy the medicine at that clinic or another pharmacy.

For example, if the patient thinks the pharmacy can give a better price, he might go there, or if it’s too much of a hassle, he might opt to buy at the clinic.

Pharmacists have to create their own demand, prove that you are needed in the community – that’s why you are called community pharmacists.

If you cannot get this demand from your own community, then how can you progress forward?

Diong: Again, the subject of DS is complex. When there is DS, no doubt you feel that the medicine prices are going to be cheaper at the pharmacy.

The doctors lose an income, so where do they get their income? Their prices.

The largest R&D (research and development) spender last year was Amazon at USD$22.68 billion (RM94.41 billion), not a drug company. Out of the top 25 companies, eight are drug companies and 10 are automobile companies, and they have a rough margin of 5% (Amazon) and 10% (automobiles). The top pharmaceutical companies have an operating margin of 22%, so why is there a disparity?

Chin: Amazon’s margin might be 5%, but who’s the richest guy in the world?

If you’re looking at R&D – the average lifespan of humans has increased.

If you zoom in further, in the US today, two out of three cancer patients have a survival rate of more than five years, and 83% is because of drug innovation.

There are still many diseases that have not been discovered or have no cure. If you don’t encourage ploughing money back into R&D for unmet needs, who is going to do that?

Not IT companies. We have to do it because many patients are waiting.

Chee: Some of the best innovations have come from medical and other areas, from public competitive-collaborative research.

Today, in the pharmaceutical and IT sectors, a lot of R&D is still from public investment. The numbers are good and healthy. Some companies are willing to share their data, others are not.

We do hear that some companies make much more money than us, but we cannot compare industries.

Let’s use the breast cancer drug trastuzumab as an example.

It was very expensive; we provided it in the public sector and the first biosimilar was registered a few months ago, so there was competition.

Immediately, a tender was called. The generic company offered a 50% bid. The innovator brought the price down by 51.5%, so they got the tender.

When asked how the pricing was done by an oncologist at a forum, our Health Deputy Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye responded that there is no benchmark.

What’s the point of having a drug that works when people cannot afford it?

This is the ugly side of capitalism. We all want to do business, but the price has to be fair.

Within the industry, there are different layers, different players. Even the 400% mark-up by generics … what is it a mark-up from? When you talk numbers, you must have all the numbers on the table.

There’s a concern among community pharmacists that with price control, it will kill off generics.

If there is a single mark-up over pricing across the board, e.g. 40% on innovated drugs and 40% on generics, then no one will sell generics because the margin will be too small.

Diong: Not every one of your products will sell well, the same goes for generics. If you have a company with 200 registrations, not all those products make the same margin.

If a company is the only one selling an item in the country and they’re selling it at a high price, then I think it’s alright because they may have nine other products that don’t make as much.

The pharmaceutical company’s expenses are much higher than a pharmacy because our capital expenditure is much higher.

Buying a piece of land and putting the building up is the easy part. The requirements to run a factory is very expensive.

As long as there is competition, a free market works very well, because with a fixed price, a lot of us may not make it.

For items such as paracetemol strips, do you mark-up by 20% or 200%? There is no choice because you have to break even. The cost, rental, labour, etc, differ from place to place.

Salbiah: In our price mechanism proposal, generics will be handled differently. What we intend is to put a fair price both for consumers and industry.

Chee: We don’t always have to ask for the lowest price. The issue of competition is a complex one, that’s why we have a combination of policies.

We have a policy of access (medicine and health) and to promote the local industry to have competition.

We tend to grant a lot of patents too easily. We strongly recommend a review of the patentability criteria for medicines so that we really reward innovations.

Chin: Is setting the ceiling price the best thing to do? It might hinder access.

For example, there is a product. With competition, the prices will naturally come down, but now, the price is set. Whoever’s setting the price might jack it up and create a barrier to access.

Why not let it flow as a free market pricing instead of putting another control?

Salbiah: There are two parts here – one is product and the other is service provider.

Competition will benefit the patient. If I put a maximum price for the consumer, competition can happen below the maximum price.

And there is no block to access. That ceiling offers protection to the consumer.

Drug prices, medicine, government regulation, free market, capitalism, generic drugs, biosimilars, innovator, pharmaceutical company, pharmaceutical industry, community pharmacist, Star2.com

In small towns or villages, the pharmacist may be the only other healthcare professional available to help patients. — Filepic

How will the community pharmacist’s profession be affected by this price control move as there is no level playing field when it comes to discount culture in the market?

Teng Chyuan: Even with the ceiling price, the pricing war continues. There is no solution to the problem.

In the South African model, which has been in place for 15 years, a lot of pharmacies went bankrupt.

The private, individual, standalone or small chain pharmacies were the ones most affected, so much so that the profession is no longer attractive.

The number of students enrolling in pharmacy courses declined and because the numbers have dropped to such a level that one pharmacist is doing the job of 2.5 pharmacists, there are long queues waiting for prescription.

In the township of Alexandra, pharmacists are being replaced by pharmacy dispensing units ala ATMs.

Chee: We do not seem to appreciate the role of a pharmacist. In smaller towns, the pharmacist is the only other person with medical knowledge, so they have many roles to play.
A free market doesn’t exist … there is always unequal power relations.

If you allow a free market, then pharmacy chains become more powerful because they can offer all kinds of discounts and bonuses, and squeeze out smaller players.

So this is a challenge. MOH is trying to correct an imperfect market.

The first phase is looking at single-source products. You can be a captive market or have a patent so there is no competition, and in that situation, we need to use price as one factor.

If you have dominance in the market, it is not necessarily wrong, but if you abuse that dominant position and set high prices, then it’s not fair.

Teng Chyuan: When I did my pupilage in a community pharmacy, our prices were not the cheapest, yet we still had loyal consumers, so why should you compete on price? Compete on your services.

Diong: About 1,000 graduates will enter the market every year. As a result of policies made at the higher level, when pharmacists can’t find jobs, they will stop going into such courses. That’s the cycle.

A major San Francisco Bay Area city is getting closer to decriminalizing magic mushrooms and ayahuasca

A major San Francisco Bay Area city is getting closer to decriminalizing magic mushrooms and ayahuasca

Oakland could become the second US city after Denver, Colorado, to decriminalize certain psychedelic drugs.

Oakland could become the second US city after Denver, Colorado, to decriminalize certain psychedelic drugs.
Photofusion / Contributor/GettyImages

Oakland, California, could become the second city in the United States to decriminalize certain psychedelic drugs. The anticipated move comes after a councilman proposed a resolution that would lessen the legal repercussions for possessing naturally occurring forms of the drug type, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Denver, Colorado, citizens voted to decriminalize psilocybin, the psychoactive component in “magic” mushrooms, on May 7, making it the first U.S. city to pass such a law. Denver’s law doesn’t legalize psilocybin, but rather makes personal possession of the substance a low enforcement priority for the city and county.

Oakland’s proposed initiative would do the same for psilocybin, as well as ayahuasca, psychoactive cacti that contain compounds like mescaline, and iboga – all psychedelic drugs that occur naturally. The initiative would not decriminalize synthetic psychedelics like MDMA and LSD.

Oakland councilman Noel Gallo introduced the initiative, which he believes has the potential to help people with mental health problems. “If I can … talk about (how it can) deal with the mental illnesses that we have in the city, why not?” Gallo told the Chronicle.

Council President Rebecca Kaplan also said she supported the resolution, citing mass incarceration for drug possession as a reason for her stance. “I recognize that the war on drugs has been a racist, expensive, wasteful failure,” she told the Chronicle. “I also believe there are strong public health reasons to support this change.”

The illegal status of psychedelic drugs has limited research efforts, but some studies have shown psilocybin has the potential to treat depression. A small November 2016 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that people with cancer who had depression and anxiety related to their diagnoses reported a reduction in their symptoms when using psilocybin.

Another small study, published in 2006 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that 50% (18 of 36 participants) of those who used 30 milligrams of psilocybin two to three times over a two-month period reported their psilocybin experience improved their personal well-being or life satisfaction moderately. Another 29% said psilocybin improved their life satisfaction “very much.”

Oakland law enforcement’s main concern about the resolution is its potential to increase the number of people driving while under the influence of psilocybin or other psychedelic drugs, Sergeant Ray Kelly told the Chronicle. One 1998 study found psilocybin caused psychotic episodes in some users, which raises more concerns about its effects.

More research on psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs needs to be done to better understand its effects and potential uses, and decriminalization advocates believe the Oakland resolution is a step in that direction.

Oakland’s city council is scheduled to discuss the decriminalization proposal on June 4.

Read more:

International drug pricing transparency resolution diluted

International drug pricing transparency resolution diluted

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) member states recently adopted a watered down resolution on improving drug price transparency that leading medical charity Doctors Without Borders (also known by its French acronym MSF) criticised as insufficient.

An initial draft of the resolution first introduced by Italy at WHO’s main annual meeting on May 20-28, 2019, called for near absolute transparency in the pharmaceutical sector, including requirements that companies make all data from clinical trials publicly available.

The Italian text presented to the World Health Assembly also demanded full disclosure from pharmaceutical firms on net revenue, once research and development, tax breaks and other subsidies are factored in.

Several countries – notably those that host large pharmaceutical industries like the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland – expressed reservations about the Italian draft.

The final version includes several modifications.

For example, an earlier draft called on governments to “require the dissemination of results and costs from human subject clinical trials regardless of outcome”.

But the approved text urged states to “take the necessary steps, as appropriate” to make data from clinical trials public “regardless of outcomes or whether the results will support an application for marketing approval, while ensuring patient confidentiality”.

The language was similarly softened with respect to the production costs incurred by drugmakers and patent notification.

Campaigners say some drugs are highly overpriced although they are often developed with public funding and that governments at times negotiate prices without any idea of how much the drugs cost.

MSF in a statement called the resolution “a welcome first step”, but said it did not go far enough.

“While earlier drafts of the resolution included clear language to bring more transparency to this opaque area, unfortunately a small group of countries … obstructed more concrete advances,” it added.

It singled out the UK, Germany, Japan and the US as countries that “chose to place the interests of a handful of corporations above the interests of people”.

“We need to know the mark-ups corporations charge, production costs, the cost of clinical trials, how much investment is really covered by companies, and how much is underwritten by taxpayers and non-profit groups,” MSF said.

The only way to guarantee fair drug pricing is to have fair negotiations, which “are impossible without transparency”, it added.

WHO has for years supported calls for drug pricing transparency, arguing that a more open, balanced market would improve access to life-saving drugs, notably in lower income countries. – AFP Relaxnews

Baby boomers once demonized marijuana, but now they’re swearing by it as a miracle cure

Baby boomers once demonized marijuana, but now they’re swearing by it as a miracle cure

Cannabis could help older people with many ailments, from sleep problems to arthritis.

Cannabis could help older people with many ailments, from sleep problems to arthritis.
Wrr Chelim Thi Pan / EyeEm
  • Research points to cannabis products being helpful for people with health problems like epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and psoriasis.
  • One demographic that appears to be reaping many benefits is the over-50s, who, after a period of shifting attitudes, have found cannabis can soothe the symptoms of arthritis, Parkinson’s, and the effects of a stroke.
  • Older people are also using cannabis to help with sleep and mental health.
  • It can be smoked, taken orally wih oils, teas, and edibles, or absorbed through the skin with balms and salves.
  • Inconsistent and out-of-date laws and regulations are the biggest barrier stopping many people from accessing cannabis, which also slows down the research that could go on to help many more people.
  • There’s also the stigma attached to using a drug that is still illegal in many places for health reasons.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Barbara Buck first tried cannabis when she was 17, and loved how it made her feel – more motivated and distinctly less depressed and anxious. But she had to give it up for 15 years because of random drug testing when she worked in the recreational therapy field with the elderly.

Now 54 with a new career path as a realtor, she’s one of the many people finding cannabis to be a great healer later on in life.

“The benefits for me have been wonderful,” she told INSIDER. “I make edibles for sleep and a pain salve that works wonderfully on sore joints and muscles. I don’t have depression issues and haven’t since using cannabis again.”

Buck also uses CBD – a molecule from cannabis that doesn’t make you feel intoxicated – to stay calm and clear-headed if she has a stressful day at work.

“For me cannabis just makes my life better,” she said. “It’s also been a Godsend for menopause symptoms. Cannabis and CBD help to regulate my mood, and help with hot flushes and sleep like nothing else I’ve tried.”

Cannabis, which can be smoked, taken orally wih oils, teas, and edibles, or absorbed through the skin with balms and salves, contains hundreds of different molecules. Research over the past few years has tried to decipher their different uses and affects the human body. Running alongside the science are the people taking their health into their own hands, passing on through word of mouth how cannabis products help with their ailments and wellness.

One demographic that appears to be reaping the benefits is the over-50s, who, after a period of changing attitudes, are now embracing it as a miracle cure for some of the problems that come with ageing.

How cannabis can help older people

Marc Lewis, the CEO of Remedy Review, an online hub full of the latest research and information about cannabis, told INSIDER that certain molecules can “empower your body to better regulate itself,” so it should be no surprise older people find it to be helpful with their aches and pains.

“We talk to a lot of people who just want a little more relaxation, but then quite a few people are using these products for pain and sleep,” he said. “I think also in some conversations with older folks, the feeling is maybe that they can treat pain or improve quality of life without the side effects of other medications.”

Jonas Duclos, the founder of CBD420, which manufactures and sells CBD-based products, told INSIDER that most people over 50 who contact him are looking for a solution to the general discomforts of getting older. Sometimes, it’s a last resort because traditional pharmaceuticals are causing them more harm than good, upsetting their stomach, damaging their liver, and causing other uncomfortable side effects for people with already sensitive systems.

“Cannabis and CBD work as a great anti-inflammatory for the organs as well – the stomach will be better, digestion will be better, all those things,” said Duclos. “And that creates a tremendous change for older people in pain.”

Leading US medical cannabis campaigner Dr Frank D’Ambrosio told INSIDER a review of his practice demographics revealed that 40% of his new patients are aged 50 and above, and cannabis has been incredibly effective for them.

“Older patients, who invariably suffer from age-related disease processes and thereby incur expensive pharmaceutical costs, see cannabis as a cost-effective way to decrease their needs for a host of medications,” he said.

“The biggest drawback that I have seen is not medically related. Years of disinformation propagated against this healing herb by the powers that be to the elder population has left them fearful to recognize cannabis as a medicine.”

Read more: People use cannabis products for health problems like Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and acne – but misinformation and out-of-date regulations are stopping most from benefiting

Duclos said being able to bring more comfort to older people is a duty, and they shouldn’t be written off just because their body isn’t working quite as well as it did before.

“Honestly, if anything, I think it’s pretty amazing that we can help these people who have actually been working really hard their whole life, who when they retire, they can’t do things because they’re in pain all the time,” he said.

“We’re all going to get old. So taking care of those people is actually taking care of our future selves.”

Jonas Duclos.

Jonas Duclos.

A 70-year-old French CBD420 client who chose to go by the name Mrs. Y.P. told INSIDER she suffered with fibromyalgia, arthritis, and incontinence for 20 years before she decided to try the “CBD that everyone kept talking about.”

“Not only were the pains from fibromyalgia gone, but it also reduced the pain from arthritis,” she said. “To my surprise, it also fixed my bladder issues. I used to need 4-5 diapers a day, but now – none! It changed my life.”

Regulations are out-of-date and inconsistent

Meanwhile, Mr. T.P., who is 64 and also lives in France, has used cannabis to help with the spasms and pain caused by Parkinson’s disease. He wasn’t comfortable trying cannabis with high amounts of THC – the chemical that makes you high – from the black market, so instead started growing the plant himself.

“The police destroyed it and charged me,” he said. “Cannabis is very illegal here … The police are everywhere and they’re making a lot of arrests. I’m really afraid to be arrested again, but the pain and discomfort is too much, so I take the risk of treating myself with CBD.”

He added that it’s nearly impossible to find safe and reliable cannabis products in France. That’s where CBD420 comes in, because it allows people can order CBD oils and teas online.

In France, CBD420 products are legal under EU law, but they’re illegal under French law, so there’s a lot of confusion and inconsistency about what authorities rely on.

Duclos believes these unreliable and out-of-date laws and regulations are the biggest barrier stopping many people from accessing cannabis, because they lead to the spread of misinformation.

“For us, it’s extremely important that people know what they can expect from the plant, and that there are ways to use it very safely, and to raise awareness about the products themselves,” he said. “There’s still a lot to do in terms of quality and misinformation, and there’s no standards and controls, so it’s very difficult to navigate on the web.”

It’s hard to really know which companies are being fair and transparent about their products and which aren’t, he added. For instance, cannabis is legal in nine states in the US for recreational use, and in 31 others for medicinal use only. But making it legal doesn’t mean products will automatically be clean and high quality.

Read more: A man’s heart attack may have been triggered by a cannabis lollipop that was 12 times stronger than a typical joint

“For us in Switzerland we’ve found many companies who aren’t honest about what they’re working with,” Duclos said. “It’s important to bring that information out there, how to identify a product, how to ask the right questions.”

Someone in their 20s and 30s will probably have a better chance of rifling through all the information online to find the products they want, compared to someone who’s older and less tech-savvy.

older man cannabis hands

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Cannabis products don’t all deliver the same effects, and if someone buys an oil with very high THC content it could give them an intense high they might not enjoy. It may even scare them into never using any cannabis products again – even the ones without psychoactive effects.

“That’s why I spend hours on the phone with older people,” Duclos said. “For me it’s a pleasure to spend a lot of time explaining to those people what they’re working with. And it’s even more satisfying when two months later, they call and say it changed the way they perceive their future, because they’re going to be able to do more things.”

When people have a bad experience with cannabis, it fuels its negative image, and adds to social stigma. This can have a wide ripple effect, pushing interest underground and indirectly stifling scientific advancement.

Anecdotal stories vs data

Research has shown CBD’s medicinal effects. One small study suggested it could help with epilepsy, and a large review found it is effective in relieving chronic pain. There’s also some evidence that cannabis can reduce the nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, and the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

But so far, many of the perceived wellness benefits of cannabis products are anecdotal, meaning the data isn’t there to back them up yet.

Duclos believes the taboo around drugs like cannabis means people are reluctant to come forward about their experiences, though it’s in the personal stories where the most interesting impact can be seen.

James Malaspino from Florida, for instance, was recommended cannabis for treating his symptoms after a massive right side hemorrhagic stroke. He told INSIDER it left him with limited control over parts of his left arm and leg, severe tremors, and “left neglect,” which is a lack of awareness of the left side of the body.

“The first time I tried CBD, I immediately felt like I had better sensation, improved control, and almost complete negation of the tremors,” he said. “The most incredible thing was that after a few months I started getting impulses to do things like use my left arm to close the microwave or slide it normally into a shirt sleeve instead of pulling the sleeve onto the left arm with my right hand.”

Read more: Here’s what marijuana actually does to your body and brain

Malaspino is now in his 40s, but has never been particularly bothered by cannabis or those who used it, except for thinking “stoned people always seemed kinda stupid.” But since he found it to be such a helpful part of his recovery, he started recommending it to others, including his 74-year-old father who has been dealing with cancer on-and-off for about a decade.

But he quickly found there is still taboo, “especially in the older ‘Reefer Madness’ silent generation,” who grew up with an overly dramatic 1930s propaganda film about how marijuana could cause accidents, suicide, rape, murder, and a descent into madness.

“Multiple people were trying to get [my father] to try cannabis for his nausea, appetite, and so on without success,” Malaspino said. “It was not until I made him a bunch of CBD chocolates for Christmas that he was willing to even try it.”

older man cannabis

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His friend’s 90-year-old mother with brain cancer was also vehemently against trying CBD for her symptoms, for no other reason than that she saw drugs as illegal, and therefore wrong. But for people like Malaspino, with everything he’s learned about cannabis, it’s hard to imagine ever going back.

“The low THC strains are like magic for my stroke symptoms,” he said. “So far I’ve seen it help friends with PTSD, anxiety, arthritis, even someone who had a root canal told me that it was better than the Oxycontin they were prescribed.”

What does the science say?

According to Lewis from Remedy Review, the latest research has found that CBD empowers your endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate mood, appetite, pain, and other major physiological functions.

“Your body’s natural state is to be balanced – it’s not to be anxious, or to be in pain – and what CBD does is it gives you the ability to achieve that natural balance,” he said. “That’s what the science is telling us, it’s that CBD helps your body be its best self, if that makes sense, more so than actually treating a symptom.”

For example, research has shown how cannabis can be used as an anti-inflammatory with the potential to treat skin conditions like psoriasis. With psoriasis, the body over-reacts and creates too many skin cells, so CBD doesn’t exactly repair the patch of dry and irritated skin, but rather helps your body to regulate itself and work better, Lewis said.

A recent survey from Remedy Review found that 9% of 1,000 seniors asked had used CBD for health reasons. Out of these, over 65% said they had a good quality of life compared to just 31% who said the same before trying CBD.

Among the reasons listed for using CBD were inflammation, chronic pain, and poor sleep quality, but many seniors also use it for anxiety and depression.

“The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that nearly 18.1% of the US population over the age of 18 suffers from an anxiety disorder, and only 36.9% of those suffering choose to get treatment,” the report says. “It’s encouraging, then, that some seniors are attempting to self-heal with this type of nontraditional ‘treatment.’”

Read more: Researchers are studying women who use marijuana while pregnant. Lots of expecting moms already partake in the practice.

Buck, for example, tried many different antidepressants, but she said they caused weight gain and blunted emotions. By the time she started smoking again in 2010, medical cannabis was legal in her state, so she tried her hand at growing plants. She then became a medical caregiver, supplying up to five patients with her 0.3% THC content cannabis.

Buck was always open-minded about cannabis, and now uses it both socially and for her health. She said it’s just like when people enjoy cigars, craft beer, wine, or bourbon when they relax, without the attached stigma. But she is also aware not everyone sees it that way.

“The worry I have about what people will think is more regarding my professional life in real estate,” she said. “In my personal life I don’t shout it from the rooftops but I will be candid with people, especially if they have a negative attitude toward it with no experience with it.”

Cannabis could change someone’s future

If you want to guide the older people in your life towards trying cannabis for their wellness, Lewis said it’s best to start with organic products that have been tested recently, with a brand that is transparent about where the original plant came from. It’s also important to guide them through what different cannabinoids are meant to do.

“I think the first thing we have to tackle is trying to separate CBD and THC,” he said. “Marijuana will make you intoxicated, CBD will not. And even then I think we’re only starting to scratch the surface.”

He added a caution that substances work differently for everybody, and a dose for one person won’t necessarily be the equivalent dose for another.

“You have to start slow and work your way towards a dose that works for you,” he said. “If you take a gummy bear or capsule, your body has to digest that, so it may take a couple of hours for you to feel any effects, whereas an oil or a vape pen you might feel pretty quickly.”

In other words, if you don’t feel the effects, be patient and give it time to work.

If you’re recommending cannabis to someone who is on a lot of medication already, Lewis said you should also speak to a doctor beforehand about any possible drug interactions.

“I don’t want people to turn away from talking to healthcare professionals because they’re not up to speed on what everyone’s buying,” he said. “It seems the market and consumers are well ahead of the science which isn’t always a good thing.”

cannabis field

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When someone does find a product that works for them, it can change their life. Duclos has even seen with his own parents.

“For three years my mother was on medical leave because of her hips and neck,” he said. “And thanks to CBD she’s not only back at work, but she’s gone skiing with my dad. To me, that’s mind-blowing.”

It can also just mean living life with a bit more enjoyment. Years of suffering from pain, loneliness, and isolation in their old age would make anyone bitter, Duclos said.

“It’s going to sound ridiculous, but cannabis is a great way to help people socialize,” Duclos said. “CBD helps against anxiety, helps against stress … It’s part of wellbeing and creates a better environment and better physical comfort. All those elderly people could have all that instead of suffering.”

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