CBD and Older Adults: New Publication Focuses on Safety

For Immediate Release
April 28, 2021

Contact: Todd Kluss
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Many cannabidiol (CBD) products are available for sale in the U.S., yet few of them are supported by evidence on safety or optimal uses. Fortunately, professional societies and patient advocacy groups are ideally positioned to inform their professional members and the nation’s older adults about CBD, according to a new publication from The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) titled “Medical Use of Cannabidiol in Older Adults: A Focused Discussion on Safety.”

Use of CBD products is growing among older adults. Chronic conditions may lead them to seek alternative approaches to manage pain, insomnia, anxiety, and some symptoms of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

In fall 2020, GSA convened stakeholders representing seven patient advocacy groups and 10 professional societies to discuss federal and state law governing cannabis-derived products to the safety of the medical use of these products by adults aged 55 years or older. This publication summarizes presentations and recommendations by the stakeholders.

Some marketing for CBD products may reinforce a perception that they are always safe. However, CBD-related calls to poison control centers have risen from three in 2014 to 2,218 in 2020, shared William J. Lynch Jr., BPharm, RPh, a clinical pharmacist for Jefferson Health and an adjunct professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

“It’s important to know [how CBD affects the body] because as pharmacists and physicians, we might modify a person’s medications if we found elevated liver function tests, for example — especially for older adults,” Lynch said. “CBD is not necessarily benign.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to gather information about how it can best regulate medical products containing CBD, including reopening its public docket, Information on CBD Data Collection and Submission, in March 2020. The agency recognizes that there is substantial public interest in cannabis and cannabis-derived products for medical purposes and the many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of non-FDA-approved products containing CBD.

“In spite of a plethora of CBD products, there is also a lack of high-quality clinical research studies to support their use,” the publication states — noting that professional societies in the field of aging and patient advocacy groups are well-suited to advocate for public policies that support more research on CBD safety and efficacy, as well as to encourage more professionals to enter this area of research. “Evidence from future CBD trials can lead to more FDA-approved CBD-based therapies, improved clinical treatment guidelines, and clearer consumer information.”

Wade Ackerman, JD, the FDA regulatory partner at Covington & Burling LLP, added that medical research can play an important role in mitigating public health concerns about the safe use of CBD products for medical purposes. Bolstering research can also help society realize CBD’s potential as a medical product for serious conditions and vulnerable populations.

Support for this publication was provided by Greenwich Biosciences.


The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society.

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