We’ve all heard purveyors of fine cannabis warn, “This ain’t your grandpa’s weed.” Well, someone needs to tell that to grandpa.
Elderly Californians might be getting a little overzealous in their return to the world of weed, because a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that the rate of cannabis-related trips to the emergency room among seniors has increased by an astounding 1,808% from 2005 to 2019.
What do these findings reveal? That maybe it’s time to invest in some comfy beanbag chairs for the nursing home rec room.
Jokes aside, the significant increase has geriatricians legitimately concerned because older adults are at a higher risk for negative health effects associated with cannabis and other psychoactive substances.
So, what exactly is driving this forced exodus to emergency rooms across California? It’s very possible that our elderly pot-smoking counterparts really do think they can handle it. After all, they probably smoked cannabis in their early 20s and think they know what to expect. Only problem is, gone are the good ol’ days of the ‘70s, when weed was just weed and not some superpowered substance capable of launching you into the stratosphere. Back then, the average potency of cannabis was a measly 3%-4%, according to the Potency Monitoring Program. But if you assume “weed is just weed” today, you’ll be in for a rude awakening when you puff on 21st-century cannabis, which commonly exceeds 90% THC.
But oftentimes, older adults end up in the ER not because of a perceived overdose on THC, but due to a host of unintended consequences from indulging in cannabis, like injuries from falls caused by slowed reaction time and impaired attention. Cannabis use can also exacerbate cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, as well as lead to increased risk of paranoia, delirium, and even psychosis.
Still, it’s never too late to rediscover the joys of getting baked, and our elderly sisters and brothers deserve to know the joys of good weed too. So here are a few things older adults can do to reduce their risk of negative outcomes.
The most obvious workaround is to choose strains with very low THC, at least until you’re familiar with your tolerance levels. Every product sold in California dispensaries has the THC content printed on the packaging, or it’s as simple as asking your budtender.
Another option is to choose cannabis products that allow for more precise dosing. Vape pens and cartridges, although they can exceed 90% THC, allow users to take just one hit at a time, so it’s unlikely that one hit will send them to the ER. And some cartridges have potency in the low-20% range. These make excellent options for those testing out their tolerance levels. Just be sure to take only one small hit, then wait about 20 minutes before deciding if you can tolerate another.
Edibles, on the other hand, can be a bit of a wild card, as the effects are notoriously unpredictable and depend on things most people don’t account for, like how much food they’ve eaten that day and their blood sugar levels. Plus, the duration can be longer compared to inhaled cannabis. So, if the boomer in your life wants to blaze one, maybe encourage them to stick to their one-hitter for now.
It’s also a good idea to be as specific as possible regarding the effects you’re hoping to achieve. It could be very disconcerting to expect the same happy, giggly, sativa high the ‘70s were known for, only to end up with an indica that keeps you glued to the couch with eyes that just can’t seem to stay open. The menu at Doobie Nights is very much geared to finding precisely the kind of high you’re seeking, with options ranging from focused and inspired to energetic and uplifted and calm and relaxed. Doobie Nights also has well trained budtenders who will act as your personal concierge to ensure you get the best product to suit your needs.
Finally, it’s especially important for older adults to be open and honest with their healthcare providers about their pot use. Sometimes cannabis is contraindicated with prescription medications, so be loud and proud and tell your doctor what you consume, how you ingest it, and how much THC it contains. This way, you can receive the best care possible and any potential drug interactions can be taken into account.
Let’s all take a lesson from our elderly counterparts and get lit responsibly.