Dear Dr. Green,
My grandfather is 85 and suffers from arthritic pain. I would like him to try a cannabis-infused lotion to help mitigate the daily aches and pain. Is there anything I should be wary of? — Stephanie K., Manhattan Beach, Calif.
I have heard excellent anecdotal reports about the benefits of cannabis creams for arthritic pain and muscle injury. There are few clinical studies using THC or CBD absorbed through the skin. Nevertheless there are multiple preparations sold with different combinations of THC and CBD.
When using cannabis as a local cream, we have to consider the unusual possibility of skin irritation or allergic response where the lotion is applied. If this occurs, it generally responds well to simple washing or a local anti-histamine cream.
In the elderly, we have to be very cognizant of any medication that may affect their brain function. It is unusual for a cannabis lotion to cause drowsiness, sedation, impaired coordination, decreased concentration, feeling high, euphoria or depression. Since CBD appears to have less of an effect on cognitive function than THC, I would be inclined to search out a lotion which has a higher percentage of CBD.
Personally, I feel the use of cannabis cream is very low risk in his age group and might be a worthwhile addition to other allopathic treatments. I would always advocate for a thorough evaluation by a rheumatologist for arthritic pain since there are different types of arthritis and different therapies.