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How aging changed my cannabis routine – and maybe yours too

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When I started using cannabis I was a 21 year old student. My cannabis routine consisted mostly of split bowls, bongs, and blunts filled with THC-dominant cannabis flowers, and I usually only used it at night and on weekends.

Just like now, cannabis helped me relieve stress, anxiety, pain, and depressive symptoms back then. It helped me fall asleep faster and sleep better too. But in the past decade, since I first saw it, aging has changed my cannabis routine in many ways. Everything from my preferred method of cannabis use to my dosage preferences to my THC tolerance is completely different now.

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The topic of cannabis and aging has preoccupied me since I was 30 years old in 2020. So I asked two doctors who were informed about cannabis – Dr. Jordan Tishler and Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, Medical Advisor at Jushi Holdings, Inc. and Medical Director of the Dent Neurologic Institute – to weigh how aging has changed my cannabis routine and how it could change yours.

How aging changed my preferred method of using cannabis

Cannabis leaf on pink background

By the late twenties, smoking and vaping were my favorite ways to consume cannabis. As someone who has always used the plant to relieve stress, pain, and anxiety – and PTSD symptoms later on my cannabis journey – I appreciated the instant relief from inhalation.

However, as I get older, I prefer to stick with foods and tinctures, partly because of health issues that didn’t appear in my life until 2019, but also because I’m now generally more health conscious and want to protect my lungs.

When asked, Tishler said he didn’t think preference was the right way to look at his consumption methods.

“As a cannabis specialist, I think preferences aren’t really the right point of view. Different routes of administration produce different results, so the approach is best tailored to the symptoms, ”he explains.

Mechtler says something similar: “In general, the best way to use cannabis depends on what the person is using the cannabis product for. Are they just using it to catch a buzz or are they trying to treat an underlying health condition? ”

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Mechtler recommends tinctures and capsules because they typically provide six to eight hours of relief for patients, while inhaled products only provide two to three hours of relief.

In addition, both Tishler and Mechtler advise against smoking and vaporizing cannabis, as these methods endanger our health. “I wouldn’t recommend smoking because it’s not good for us, which is more important for older people,” says Tishler.

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As an oncologist, Mechtler finds it very difficult to recommend a smoked or vaporized cannabis product to his patients. “This is even more important now with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. You should really do everything possible to protect your heart-lung system, ”he says.

How aging has changed my dosage preferences and my THC tolerance

Stylish woman smoking a joint at home while reading.

I moved to Missouri from California in 2019. I still can’t afford my Missouri Medical Marijuana Card – but that’s only partly why my cannabis routine is mostly full-spectrum CBD products and has been around for almost two years. Put simply, when it comes to THC, I think less is more.

When I was younger it felt great to smoke a whole bowl, take multiple bong hits, or eat a 20 milligram edible in one sitting.

For years, high doses of THC-dominant cannabis products and strains have been effective in suppressing my anxiety and PTSD symptoms with little or no negative side effects.

But shortly after I turned 29, large doses of THC started making me feel worse. I am not alone with this experience either. Anecdotes suggest that age can play a role in how a person experiences THC. In addition, the results of a 2007 study show a link between age and THC sensitivity.

Marijuana joints and hand cut flower

Over the course of the study, two age groups of rats were given THC and then given tasks to test their levels of stress and anxiety. The study results led the researchers to conclude that the older rats were more likely to experience higher levels of stress and anxiety than the younger ones after consuming THC.

While I used to smoke and steam almost exclusively, often several times a day, nowadays I prefer to take 15 to 30 milligrams of high-quality CBD two or three times a day. I feel like my current routine is doing a wonderful job of relieving anxiety and promoting sleep. And I think it’s great that there is little risk of impairment or paranoia with CBD. Even if I manage to get my medical marijuana card from Missouri, I will likely continue to consume hemp CBD oils on a daily basis and only consume low-dose THC foods.

However, aging is not necessarily going to affect your ideal dose or THC tolerance in the same way it affected mine. According to Tishler, the dose doesn’t seem to correlate well with age. “Some of my patients with the highest dose are the older ones, even if they assumed they were completely cannabis-naive,” he says.

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When it comes to anxiety and PTSD, Tishler says the THC dose can be a very fine line, and that crossing it makes these conditions worse. “I also suspect that the patient’s mindset is very important where that line lies, and as you get older, concerns about existential issues as well as your cannabis use can help move that line down,” says Tishler. In fact, a number of factors can affect a person’s cannabis high.

Why consistency is critical to any cannabis routine

Ultimately, aging looks different for everyone and no two bodies are exactly alike. There are several ways to have a healthy cannabis routine, and it’s entirely possible that mine will change – possibly many times – as I continue to age.

One thing is certain, however: consistency is essential for any cannabis user.

“Sticking to a routine is the key,” says Tishler. “If you work with your cannabis specialist to find the right route and dose, and then take it consistently (like a drug), you will get the best benefit.”

Regardless of your preferences for methods of consumption and THC levels, you can’t go wrong with this standard cannabis advice: start low and go slow.

And with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, cannabis users of all ages should take extra care to protect themselves and their lungs.

Elizabeth Enochs

Liz Enochs is a writer and journalist from a small Missouri town that you’ve probably never heard of. In addition to Leafly, her work has been published by Bustle, Narrativ, USA Today, HelloGiggles, POPSUGAR, and many others. Most of the time you can find them in the forest.

View article by Elizabeth Enochs

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