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Not all that long ago, it wouldn’t have been all that easy to have a serious conversation about whether marijuana could help improve the quality of life of residents of Dubuque and elsewhere, especially if they were receiving hospice care.
Today, however, some of the social stigma is gone, many laws have changed, and there is increasing research that shows, for certain people, medical marijuana can help with a variety of health conditions.
Some of this information is anecdotal, certainly, due to a lot of legal restrictions on new research. But the team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care knows that people suffering from pain and some of the other conditions that marijuana may help with are eager to try just about anything that may offer relief.
But before we get too far into what it can and can’t do for seniors, we need to cover some legal ground, namely what you can and can’t legally buy and where to get it.
The State of Iowa allows doctors/health providers to authorize medical marijuana for certain health conditions. A patient seeking it needs to download a form from the state and ask their provider to sign it, agreeing that they have at least one of the required health conditions that marijuana is believed to help.
Then the patient is asked to send it back to the state along with other registration info and a fee, and wait for their card to arrive. Once it comes, they can use it to visit five certified dispensaries in the state: Waterloo, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Windsor Heights and Davenport.
Here, they can purchase various oils, creams or tinctures, suppositories or products to be used in nebulizers. While some other states legally sell joints/smokable plant materials, or edibles, which are items like cookies or candies, these items are not currently available in Iowa.
Authorized products here are also designed with health in mind – they’re high in CBD, which is a natural compound that provides pain relief, but low in THC, the compound that causes mental and physical intoxication many associate with all marijuana. In fact, Iowa marijuana products can only contain 3 percent or less of THC.
You also can’t visit another state and bring different items back – federal laws current ban interstate transportation of marijuana products, even for health reasons. People caught doing so can face strong penalties.
The State of Iowa’s Office of Medical Cannabidiol said there are currently nine recognized health conditions which medical marijuana can help, although more may be added in the future. The state is also accepting suggestions from the public and health providers.
As of early 2019, these include:
- Chronic pain that hasn’t responded well to treatment
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Cancer or cancer treatments that may cause pain, nausea or loss of appetite that can cause wasting.
- Parkinson’s disease
- A terminal illness where the patient has less than a year to live that could include severe pain, nausea or wasting.
When a provider and a patient meet to discuss possible authorization, they’re asked to go over the law as well as discuss pros and cons.
People will likely to have all sorts of questions, everything from costs (depends) and whether insurance can pay for it (probably not.)
Those who aren’t familiar with marijuana in general may be worried about the moral aspects or legal threats since it’s still illegal federally, but then again, people dealing with chronic pain, nausea and vomiting or not having any appetite may be willing to try just about anything.
Many providers will also inform their patients that while it may offer temporary relief from symptoms caused by a larger illness, it won’t necessarily cure the actual illness itself. But sometimes this is good enough for people who want to feel better, avoid heavy pharmaceuticals and make it through the day easier.
Help for seniors
Though there’s a stereotype that marijuana is something that only younger people use, interest is growing nationally with senior populations.
Users report that it helps reduce general pain and anxiety, and it helps them sleep better and generally relaxes them, which are often the areas that many seniors deal with daily.
WebMD reports that besides relieving a variety of pain and nausea conditions, studies have shown that it also can reduce dependence on strong prescription drugs. It also is shown to help with withdrawal symptoms as well.
It may take some experimentation to find which strain works best, since some strains cause more or less alertness, or more or less relaxation, but this research may be interesting for seniors eager for alternatives.
Some may even mind the types that stimulate creativity while helping ease pain, everything from medical conditions to general aches and pains from household tasks like gardening.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is happy to share information about legal options for marijuana, or encourage patients to speak further with their providers.