Medicinal Cannabis, Alzheimer’s and Dementia

The debate on the effectiveness of medical marijuana, or cannabis, in treating and managing the symptoms of numerous medical conditions and diseases, has been going on for years between the medical community and the public. There have been many well-respected doctors who have voiced their support for the use of medicinal cannabis to help treat diseases like Alzheimer’s, while others express concerns over possible addiction and effects that could be long term.

Recent studies have found that it can actually diminish and alleviate some of the symptoms related to Alzheimer’s. There is potential value in the use of medicinal cannabis can help patients coping with Alzheimer’s, and families of patients should be aware of the potential benefits.

…is an extreme form of dementia that affects the long-held memories of its patients, and progressively affects and diminishes the ability of sufferers to carry out everyday functions and routines without assistance.

A few ways Medicinal Cannabis can help Alzheimer’s Patients

The progression of Alzheimer’s and how it affects patients stems from the widespread presence of beta-amyloid proteins that diminish the brain’s capacity to function normally.

Medicinal cannabis has been shown to:

1. Disperse THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) to slow the building up of neural plaques, or beta-amyloid proteins that can be key to Alzheimer’s progression. THC slows down the production of beta-amyloids thought to be the cause of Alzheimer’s. The amount of beta amyloid in a patient’s brain may be diminished by compounds found in medicinal cannabis, and very small doses of THC could help.

2. Combat inflammation by preventing and slowing down the growth of amyloid plaques around which inflammation occurs. From a report published in Neuroscience in 2006, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) played a role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s with the activation of CB1 receptor sites that had the effects of decreasing inflammation. Another study found that mice who were bred without any CB1 receptors fell victim to the accelerated degeneration of cognitive abilities. Human trials need to be completed to see if there’s a connection between the ECS and any inflammatory differences related to neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s. The initial findings are encouraging however.

3. Non-intoxicating CBD may help cells stay alive, due to properties that have been shown to be anti-oxidative, neuroprotective, and anti-apoptotic. Cannabinoid therapy is showing promise involving THC and CBD in combination. The reduction of neurotoxicity due to amyloid buildup due to the work of CBD is also encouraging, even though much more work is needed.

4. Encouraging cell growth is also a neuroprotective process that cannabinoids can provide. They do this by helping neural tissue in the hippocampus grow, which is the part of the brain that’s connected to memory.

5. Nip additional Alzheimer’s Symptoms in the bud! There are additional symptoms that medicinal cannabis can alleviate that are byproducts of Alzheimer’s. Other symptoms that can affect patients’ quality of life can include a decline in motor function, weight and appetite loss, and irritability, but have the potential to be alleviated with medicinal cannabis.

…Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.

While Alzheimer’s and Dementia are often confused with each other, they are not the same. Alzheimer’s is a disease that destroys the brain, where dementia is an umbrella term for a set of symptoms that can impair thinking and memory. People can suffer from more than one type of dementia. Dementia is caused by brain cell damage and Alzheimer’s is a common cause of dementia.

A major percentage of patients with dementia will show some of the same symptoms as Alzheimer’s patients: aggressiveness, delusional and hallucinating behavior, pain, apathetic feelings, and depression and anxiety.

While some studies have shown that cannabis doesn’t have as great an impact on treating the symptoms of dementia as with Alzheimer’s, it can be a better alternative for treating pain and behavioral symptoms than regular pharmaceutical drugs. So as there’s a distinguishable void in effective treatments on the market for dementia, cannabinoid-centered or infused products should be in a better position to gain attention as treatment options.

What’s next?

A push for more research on medicinal cannabis’ medical applications in treating health conditions and symptoms, studies and trials, and access to medicinal cannabis could gain more momentum in the very near future. For generations starting with the baby boomers who, according to reports, are enjoying longer lives than earlier generations, and for the generations that have followed the boomers, possibly even longer lifespans.

So, as people live longer, the likelihood that greater risks of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and syndromes like dementia will create a need for medical cannabis as a non-addictive and relatively lower cost treatment alternative that could help improve the quality of life for millions of Americans.

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