Study: Medical Cannabis Therapy Reduces Prescription Drug Use Among Nursing Home Patients

Tel Aviv, Israel: The use of medical cannabis mitigates symptoms and reduces the need for prescription medications among elderly nursing home patients, according to a study published in the journal Advances in Health and Behavior.

Israeli investigators assessed the impact of medical cannabis consumption on symptom management and prescription drug use in a cohort of 19 elderly patients over a one-year period. Participants in the study were enrolled in Israel’s federal marijuana access program and were able to choose from four select strains of cannabis. All of the study’s subjects were dependent on nursing home care.

Researchers reported, “All patients experienced immediate relief from medical cannabis usage.” These effects included reduced pain, increased appetite, better mood, improved sleep, and dramatic improvements in symptoms of spasticity.

Authors further reported that cannabis therapy was associated with a reduction in subjects’ use of prescription medications – a finding that is consistent with prior studies. Overall, participants discontinued taking a total of 39 prescription medicines during the study period. Patients were most likely to eliminate their use of opioids, anxiolytics, and anti-depressants after initiating cannabis therapy.

They concluded, “We found an overall improvement in the patients, including of their symptoms and medical conditions, cessation or reduction of traditional drug usage, and a general improvement in life quality. … Overall, 39 dosages of prescription drugs were cancelled for the 19 elderly individuals included in this research, indicating that medical cannabis can be an effective treatment that also reduces environmental drug load.”

Full text of the study, “Will medical cannabis treatment reduce pharmaceutical residues in the aquatic environment? A case study from an elderly nursing home,” appears in Advances in Health and Behavior. Additional information assessing the relationship between medical cannabis and prescription drug patterns is available from the NORML fact-sheet.