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Medical Marijuana in Nursing Homes

  • Published: 2010-11-03 : Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C..
  • Synopsis: Medical marijuana receives attention from nursing homes as more patients seek to reduce their dependence on ineffective medications.

Main Document

Medical marijuana receives attention from nursing home and assisted living facilities as more patients seek to reduce their dependence on ineffective medications.

Although the elderly account for only 12.7 percent of the nationwide population, they consume roughly a third of total prescription medications and about 40 percent of all over-the-counter medicine, according to a 2006 study in Clinical Geriatrics. Side effects from taking large amounts of powerful pills many nursing home residents consume can be severe, and sometimes even constitute significant cases of nursing home abuse because of over-medication and lack of real treatment leading to injuries such as bed sores.

Families of those in nursing homes may discover the quantity of medication their loved one takes leaves them unable to think clearly. One advocate explained she often received calls from family members saying their loved one was completely lucid when they arrived at the nursing home, but a short time later they had difficulty even recognizing family.

One medicinal marijuana user, who gets the drug from his adult son, explained the benefits he experienced. Before using marijuana he was taking OxyContin to relieve pain from degenerative disc disease which made him "feel like a zombie." To counteract the mood disorder he associated with OxyContin he also took antidepressants. Marijuana enabled him to cut back on the painkillers.

No amount of medications may be effective in easing the severe pain some of the elderly experience. Norma Winkler, 82, mixes cannabis oil in applesauce to relieve pain from a back injury. She said no other medication has come close to controlling the pain and allowing her to function normally. She said she wouldn't go to a nursing home if they didn't allow her to take marijuana.

Legal Implications of Marijuana Use in Nursing Homes

Any nursing home resident who uses medical marijuana violates federal law. Several states, however, have passed laws allowing physicians to recommend marijuana for medicinal purposes. But very few of these states anticipated the need to regulate its use in care facilities for the elderly, many of which receive federal funding through Medicare, or indirectly through Medicaid.

Administrators are wondering how they can comply with federal law and continue to receive federal funds while also permitting some of their residents to use medical marijuana. Other issues include storage, dosage, drug interactions, and the rights of those nursing home residents opposed to marijuana.

Marijuana does seem to hold promise as a way for some nursing home residents to decrease the amount of medications they need on a daily basis. As the baby boomer generation ages, some of which embraced marijuana use as teens, the issue is bound to generate more attention.

Over-medication of nursing home residents can be a form of elder abuse. Families should research and question why drugs are prescribed. If you feel a loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect contact a personal injury lawyer. An attorney can evaluate potential claims and work to advance your interests.

Article provided by The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. - Visit us at

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