MEDICAL CANNABIS AND ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

Chances are that most of us have either dealt with a loved one who has suffered from dementia or knows someone with a loved one suffering from the condition. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia worldwide, accounting for between 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. This means that Alzheimer’s affects approximately 30 million people across the globe. Since life expectancy is increasing, this number is expected to almost quadruple to 120 million people by 2050.

Because of this expected explosion of cases, scientists and medical professionals are looking to different ways of treating and, hopefully, preventing the disease. One of those ways is cannabis.

Is cannabis a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s? As it turns out, there is evidence that it may help in some ways, but long-term testing still needs to be carried out in humans.

How Alzheimer’s Affects the Brain

The jobs of our brain cells include the sending and receiving of information, generating energy, and constructing new brain cells. They are like little factories. Just like a normal factory, if one part of the assembly line breaks down it causes problems with other parts of the factory. Scientists know that people with Alzheimer’s have a particular kind of breakdown in the cells of the brain that leads to irreversible symptoms.

The prime suspects in damaging the cells are two abnormal structures called plaques and tangles. Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment called amyloid-beta that build up in the spaces between nerve cells. Tangles are another protein called tau, which forms twisted fibers that build up inside cells.

Source: Very Well Mind

While scientists aren’t exactly clear on just how plaques and tangles work in Alzheimer’s disease, most believe that they may block communication between and inside nerve cells. These blockages lead to cell death, which leads to the loss of memory, personality changes, and problems carrying out daily tasks.

Autopsies indicate that everyone develops plaques and tangles as they age, but those with Alzheimer’s tend to develop far more and in a predictable pattern. This pattern begins in the memory areas of the brain before spreading to other areas. This is why the first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss.

Source: Medical Net

Cannabis and Alzheimer’s

Currently, 14 medical marijuana states allow cannabis for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. While researchers currently see the potential for benefit in some cases, they also recommend caution due to the possible unforeseen risks. Alzheimer’s advocacy groups recognize the potential benefits in mood, sleep, and behavior. They also, however, note that studies indicating the benefits are limited.

Agitation, aggression, and anxiety are some primary symptoms of Alzheimer’s where cannabis use may have a positive impact. While small studies have been done on individuals with conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder using cannabis to alleviate these symptoms, they have been small. The only evidence currently available for the effect on Alzheimer’s disease is anecdotal.

This means that there is a need to do more, larger studies on the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and cannabis. These studies should focus on effectiveness, dosing methods such as vape pensor edibles, and which cannabinoids are the most effective.

While cannabis may help to improve symptoms or episodes of agitation or anxiety, there is currently no reason to suspect that cannabis would improve cognitive function in current Alzheimer’s patients. However, there might be positive indications for cannabis preventing the development of Alzheimer’s in the future.

Source: Zenpype via Lab Roots

Cannabis in Preventing Alzheimer’s

David Schubert from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California is part of a team testing the effects of THC on human neurons grown in a lab. The study showed that tetrahydrocannabinol promotes the removal of amyloid-beta protein and lowering inflammation. Amyloid-beta protein is thought to be one of the primary factors in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The downside to this study is that the amyloid-beta protein that forms the plaques believed to cause Alzheimer’s is that those proteins have other important brain functions. So, the complete removal of them is a no-go. However, limiting the inflammation response to the plaques may be beneficial. Thankfully, both THC and CBD (cannabidiol) are both potent antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.

It is important to note, however, that while research indicates that cannabis may play a role in reducing these proteins and inflammation in rodent models and lab-grown cells, we are still a long way away from testing on humans.

Source: Ghost Professors

It is important to note, however, that while research indicates that cannabis may play a role in reducing these proteins and inflammation in rodent models and lab-grown cells, we are still a long way away from testing on humans.

The takeaway here is that while cannabis shows promise as a potential preventative treatment and may help with some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we’re still a long way from declaring it as a legitimate treatment.

Cannabis Magazine. “Medical Cannabis and Alzheimer’s Disease.” Cannabis Magazine, 23 Aug. 2019, cannabismagazine.com/medical-cannabis-and-alzheimers-disease/.

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