Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a prominent medical expert and journalist, reflects on his journey from skepticism to advocacy for the use of cannabis as a medicine. Initially doubting its effectiveness, Gupta’s perspective shifted after witnessing its positive impact on patients, particularly seniors. He highlights the evolving legal landscape of cannabis in the United States and emphasizes the growing demographic of seniors turning to cannabis for relief from age-related ailments.
Cannabis as Medicine: A Paradigm Shift
Gupta recounts his initial skepticism about cannabis as a medical treatment. However, his perspective transformed as he explored its potential benefits through global travels, lab visits, and interactions with patients, including children. He recognized that in some cases, cannabis provided unparalleled relief where other treatments fell short.
Despite inherent risks, Gupta argues that cannabis, like any medication, should be accessible to those who could benefit from it. The changing legal landscape in the US reflects a major evolution in societal perception. What was once deemed a Schedule I substance with no medical use is now legally available in 38 states and the District of Columbia for various purposes.
The Surprising Demographic: Seniors
Gupta points out the remarkable shift in demographics, with seniors becoming the fastest-growing group of cannabis users in the US. This trend is particularly surprising given that these individuals grew up during the era of the war on drugs and “Reefer Madness.” Gupta terms this phenomenon a “senior moment.”
Seniors’ Use of Cannabis
Seniors are increasingly turning to cannabis to address common challenges associated with aging, such as sleep disturbances, aches, pains, and mood issues. Studies show that seniors are opting for it over traditional medications, including sleeping pills, antidepressants, and opioids. Gupta notes that if it can reduce seniors’ reliance on pharmaceuticals, it could have significant implications for healthcare costs.
Challenges and Benefits
While recognizing the complexity of cannabis due to its multiple compounds, Gupta discusses the endocannabinoid system present in humans. This system aims to maintain balance within the body, or homeostasis. With aging, the production of cannabinoids decreases, contributing to sleep, pain, and mood issues. It can potentially address these imbalances and provide relief.
Gupta acknowledges that cannabis is not a one-size-fits-all solution and that risks are involved. He shares the stories of individuals like Ken Tillman, a 94-year-old who found relief from insomnia and existential anxiety through it. However, Gupta highlights the importance of education, guidance, and regulation to ensure safe and effective its use.
A Changing Face: From Children to Seniors
Gupta reflects on how the face of cannabis has evolved over the past decade. While it once centered on stories like Charlotte Figi, a young girl who found relief from seizures, it now includes stories of seniors like “Mama Sue” Taylor. Mama Sue, a former teacher, has become an advocate for seniors using it to reduce medication reliance and improve quality of life.
Conclusion: The Future of Cannabis as Medicine
Gupta concludes that cannabis should be regarded as a medicine, subject to proper regulation and responsible use. While it may not work for everyone, its potential to address a range of ailments should be acknowledged. As attitudes continue to shift and seniors embrace it, it has the potential to provide relief and improve the lives of people across generations.