For both patients and their loved ones, Alzheimer’s Disease ranks among the most challenging conditions one can experience. This chronic neurodegenerative disorder leads to progressive symptoms including dementia, memory loss, emotional issues, and speech problems, among others. Few treatments exist and available therapies only address some symptoms, but not the progression of the disease itself. The search for new therapeutic options has led to significant interest in cannabis-based treatments and researchers are currently working to advance our understanding of the possible roles medical cannabis could play in the future of Alzheimer’s treatment.
In the absence of effective conventional interventions for treating Alzheimer’s disease, some experts have begun to explore the possibility that medical cannabis may hold the key to disrupting the neurodegenerative process that drives the disease’s progression. Researchers are particularly interested in how cannabis medicines might interact with the body’s own endocannabinoid system, which regulates brain function and could play a neuroprotective role.
Scientific inquiry into the impact of cannabis medicines on Alzheimer’s disease has gained momentum in recent years, leading to the following notable studies:
- New findings presented at Neuroscience 2018 concluded that “Treating Alzheimer’s disease mice with the psychoactive compound found in marijuana improves memory and reduces neuronal loss, suggesting a possible therapy for the human disease.”
- A 2016 study by the Salk Institute found that THC (one of the primary compounds found in most cannabis medicines) helped to reverse the buildup of harmful amyloid plaques within the brain that contribute to neurodegeneration through the death of brain cells. Researchers also found that THC reduces inflammation, which contributes to brain cell damage.
- A 2016 study performed by researchers in Israel administered medical cannabis oil to a sample group of Alzheimer’s patients and observed a significant reduction in dementia symptoms. The study’s authors concluded that cannabis treatment was a “safe and promising treatment option” for addressing Alzheimer’s symptoms.
- A 2014 study appearing in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease also examined the impact of THC on reducing amyloid plaque buildup and produced positive results. Researchers concluded that “these sets of data strongly suggest that THC could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.”
These findings are very encouraging and we’re eager to learn more as new data become available. It’s also important to note that researchers focusing on cannabis-based treatments for Alzheimer’s disease have cited the difficulty of obtaining proper licensing as an obstacle to performing clinical trials. Despite its availability to patients in many states through regulated dispensaries, American researchers may only obtain cannabis from a limited supply produced by the federal government. Future expansion of research opportunities could open the door to more extensive studies and dramatically advance our understanding of how cannabis may benefit patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
We understand the challenges faced by patients and families impacted by an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and we’ll continue to follow emerging scientific findings closely. Our resources will be updated on an ongoing basis as new information becomes available. Due to the complexity of Alzheimer’s symptoms, we encourage patients and caregivers considering medical cannabis to thoroughly discuss your treatment plan with your physician and carefully document outcomes to help evaluate the patient’s response. As always, our staff is available to answer any questions we can to ensure that your experience with medical cannabis is safe, well-informed, and as beneficial as possible.