Effectiveness of Medical Marijuana in Older Adults with Chronic Pain

Lenny Chiang-Hanisko
Florida Atlantic University

David Newman1, Deborah D’Avolio1, Heather Underwood1, Michelle Weiner2, Christian Gonzalez2
1Florida Atlantic University
2Spine and Wellness Centers of America

Objective: Musculoskeletal disorders with associated chronic pain are a common problem in later life. Symptom management in older adults, including chronic pain management can be challenging. Medications, especially opioids, can increase the risk of confusion, constipation, falls and injury. Medical marijuana (MM) is often recommended in the treatment of these conditions. MM use among older adults is rapidly growing more than other age groups. There is a demand for health care providers to understand MM’s clinical indications, potential benefits and side effects in older adults. This is an area of study that needs more research since MM has recently become readily available with legislation and the rise of the MM culture within the healthcare arena.

Methods: Data were collected using RedCap online survey tools for age 60 and older who have an active medical marijuana prescription and chronic pain residing in South Florida. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics and management of missing data.

Results: 77 participants completed the informed consent with 54 completing all of the survey questionnaires. Age ranged from 60~88 years (mean = 74) with most participants identifying as non-Hispanic whites, most are retired and 72% female. The analysis revealed the occurrence of several common side-effects of MM use. The largest side effect reported was an increased appetite (24.1%), followed by change in mood (20.4%), elevated levels in lack of concentration (13%), lethargy (11.1%) and dizziness (9.3%). Only 3 (7.3%) participants reported receiving MM education prior to filling their prescription, with 43% reporting the education was less than 20 minutes. Medical marijuana was considered effective in reduction of overall chronic pain on a visual analog scale ranging from 0 to 100 with a decrease of pain from 71.1 prior to MM use to 35.22 after use. This result was statistically significant [t(42)=11.68, p<.001] and indicated a potentially large effect with Cohen’s d=1.82.

Conclusion: Medical marijuana should be considered carefully for each patient with frequent monitoring for efficacy and adverse events. There is a critical need to access the current training and advising on patients’ ability to safely and effectively use MM.

Co-authors: David Newman1, Deborah D’Avolio1, Heather Underwood1, Michelle Weiner2, Christian Gonzalez2
1Florida Atlantic University
2Spine and Wellness Centers of America

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