Increasingly, since cannabis was legalized in Canada, the patients speaking to Dr. Jonathan Bertram, a lecturer in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, are older adults.
Bertram spoke about this at the Cannabinoids in Clinical Practice virtual conference held by the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabis. Bertram, who is co-chair of the Canadian Coalition for Seniors Mental Health Cannabis Working Group, notes that many patients who ask about cannabis use want to know about its therapeutic effects for issues such as insomnia and anxiety. And although cannabis is still more popular with younger demographics, the most recent National Cannabis Survey conducted by Statistics Canada revealed that is increasing faster for adults aged 65+ than other groups.
Cannabis use can have particular concerns for this older demographic (for example, consider the change its use can have on one’s balance and heart rate), but an area Bertram focused on is using the Senior Alcohol Misuse Indicator (SAMI) as a non-judgmental method of communication when it comes to marijuana.
SAMI guides clinicians to ask about the symptoms that may be at the root of why a patient is using alcohol, rather than asking directly about alcohol use, such as asking about their appetite or sleep patterns, explained Bertram. Approaching the conversation in this way can help with opening up the conversation about whether they are using substances to help with these symptoms.
Resulting in greater sensitivity and specificity to approaching the discussion on alcohol use, Bertram says using a similar approach could be helpful when discussing cannabis with older adults. It can help when counselling them to make educated decisions when it comes to marijuana.