Seniors look to cannabis to ease ailments of aging

February 21, 2020

[Reporter: Ioanna Remelioutis] [Man] We’re going to listen to some music OK. [ ♪ Shania Twain – Forever And For Always ♪ ] You remember that song? [Reporter] Their wedding song seems to calm her. Seems to reach Karen Walker in that far away place dementia has taken her [ ♪ ♪ ] [Reporter] Mike Walker is willing to try
anything to soothe his wife. From music to marijuana. [ ♪ ♪ ] [Mike] You just can’t give up on somebody. You gotta try whatever, you know whatever means are out there. I mean she still gets her outbursts but not near what it used to be, I know that. Like — it was a lot more severe over there for quite a while. [Reporter] The agitation has improved since Karen started taking 20 milligrams of cannabis oil twice a day. The dose is part of a study looking at how medical marijuana can help improve the quality of life for seniors… [Nurse] HAve some milk Karen. [Reporter] dealing with issues like chronic
pain and cognitive decline. [Mike ] Well, like I say — [Reporter] Mike has seen a difference. [Mike] I find her more aware. Like before, if I took my phone out she grabbed it and threw it across the floor. Like, I had her holding the phone. Like holding the phone with music on it. And then I’d show her pictures of her grandkids. And she’d put a big smile on. Like she’s more coherent. Kiss? [Reporter] Families like him, eager to explore the potential benefits of marijuana prompted the study. [Nurse] Go get him one of the comfy seats. [Reporter] The goal: to back anecdotes with evidence. [Man] Now, has anyone heard about CBD or cannabidiol? [Reporter] The groundwork to enroll people in the study began last summer with information sessions at dozens of seniors residences, like this one in Ottawa To dispel any stigma. [Man] Part of this education is really to demystify what medical cannabis is. In cannabis there’s actually over a 120 different cannabinoids and the CBD actually doesn’t in cause psychoactivity it doesn’t make you high — [Reporter] David Greb is with Canopy Growth, the weed company providing the marijuana for the study. [Greb] A lot of seniors struggle with three key areas; pain, mood and sleep. And the potential for cannabis to address a lot of the issues around aging is really the potential biggest population that could see benefit. But it’s also a population that hasn’t been exposed to a lot of the education around cannabis. [Reporter] Greb tells the group the active ingredient in weed can be transformative. As in the case of an elderly woman who almost gave up playing the piano [Greb] — and unfortunately she got osteoarthritis in her hands and she could no longer play piano. So she started using medical cannabis and within about two months she was able to fully start playing piano again and now she stood up and said, “I
feel like a child again.” “I can play for hours on end again.” And I hear these stories over and over and over. [ ♪ ♪ ] [Reporter] Neva Carmen is that success story. [Carmen] It’s been a standing joke in my family my grandson just thinks it’s wonderful. “I have to tell my friends my 90-year-old grandmother’s taking marijuana,” he says. [Laughs] [ ♪ ♪ ] [Reporter] Her arthritis was so bad she was ready to give away her piano. When her grandson suggested marijuana, she was skeptical. [Carmen] When I’d sit down at the piano I’d get so mad because I just couldn’t stand it, you know. So I went on the cannabis and I was on it about six weeks and I began to think,
“Hmm, this feels pretty good,” you know. Not having the pain I was in and my hands weren’t swelling up. [ ♪ ♪ ] [Reporter] Since then, Neva is back at it. Playing regularly for her fellow residents and enjoying the moment. [Carmen] It is experimental, we don’t still don’t know what its gonna do to us but at 90, who cares? [Laughs] You can’t do any more harm that’s already been done. [Reporter] So you’re a convert? Definitely. Definitely. [ ♪ ♪ ] [Woman] Well, I think it’s exciting I think it’s wonderful to know that there is something that’s available to improve this resident’s quality of life. And I’m excited at the opportunity for more information so that we can say, “Yes, this is something we can use.” But we need to know how safe and effective it is. [Reporter] Dr. Rhonda Collins works for Rivera Homes, a network of seniors residences. Collins is identifying people suitable for the trial. She says so far the results have
been mixed. [Collins] Personally, in my practice I have seen people have amazing responses to cannabis. I’ve seen people have zero responses and I’ve also people have seen people have negative responses. So that’s why it’s so important to me that rather than have a few scattered stories from across different sites we have some rather robust evidence. [ ♪ ♪ ] I’m at the end of my book. [Applause] [Reporter] The evidence is especially critical in such a vulnerable population. There are concerns around how medical marijuana interacts with other medications. How it metabolizes in older people and potential side effects, like dizziness,
can be especially dangerous for people prone to falling. For Mike, the last few years have been a struggle. He just wants to provide his wife with some comfort. Ultimately, what do you want from this study? What do you what are you hoping for? That’s a question in itself, what are you hoping for? You’re hoping for a miracle, to have a fix but I’m not saying no but you got a choice. If I can’t fix her, at least give her a better
quality of life so she can relax. It’s all you can hope for. [Reporter] And right now he’s found that bit of hope. And however untested it still is, he’s holding on to it. Ioanna Roumeliotis, CBC News Mississauga. OK, so there’s a fair amount of research going into answering a great number of
questions about cannabis use and older people but where exactly do we stand now
can it work is it safe dr. Samir Sinha the director of geriatrics at me on
Sinai joining us right now and you have people coming to you asking this very
question absolutely yeah no many of my patients are now asking about it and
saying could this be a solution for me and so what do you tell them well you
know it depends on what they’re looking for because I say to them right now
there isn’t a lot of great evidence out there to say that it’s actually a great
treatment for everything under the Sun there’s some mounting evidence saying
they could be helpful specific areas of pain management pain is where there’s
the most promise you think there’s there’s the most promise at the moment
but again what I found is that of all of my patients who’ve actually tried this
you know there are some who have compelling anecdotes like it helped with
those behaviors related to dementia for example or it helped with their pain but
I’d say the vast majority of my patients who tried it have said either it had no
benefit whatsoever or they actually say that they actually felt a lot of side
effects like dizziness and nausea and doesn’t make great news stories about
miracles right but it’s actually it’s telling us that while there’s compelling
anecdotes we don’t really know exactly in who would it best be useful and so if
someone were to come to you though and say look you know I I’m in pain and and
I’m not waiting for more research I just want to try it is there a reason that
you would dissuade them from doing so I mean are there red flags well I mean Oh
for patients who might be on a lot of complicated medications or they might
actually have very complex health issues I might be worried that this could
create where there’s a lot of unknowns more problems you know then then
benefits but you know if one of my patients said I want to try this what do
you think you know it’s not an inexpensive venture to go and get a
prescription and buy the oils or buy the edibles or whatever the case is but what
I want them to do is work with a professional who knows how to prescribe
cannabis and can understand what their particular issues are to see if they can
find something that might work for them that’s their best chance of potentially
getting benefit but again we’re still we still need more research to figure out
where it can be useful doctor steno interesting stuff Thanks thank you

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