The Truth about the Utility of Medicinal Marijuana in Treating Alzheimer's Dementia

Dr. Adam Tabriz

Research suggests that the Sativa Strain of Cannabis may Help Slow The Progression of Alzheimer's!

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Marijuana plantPhoto byEsteban Lopez on Unsplash

As people worldwide live longer due to advances we have made in medical science, so is some of the disease typical to the aging population. Amongst the latter-mentioned disorders, one can point to neurodegenerative diseases or ailments primarily associated with the progressive degradation of brain cells and their associated structures.

Dementia is a neurodegenerative condition that typically applies to a general physical state where the affected person has difficulty remembering, thinking, and making decisions with their daily activities.

Of course, in severe cases, dementia does, indeed, lead to motor, severely pronounced cognitive functions, and even a vegetative stage where the affected person fails to show the classic signs of consciousness, including the ability to speak, respond to commands, move with purpose, or avoid painful stimuli. Yet, someone in a vegetative state continues to maintain regular physiological and life-sustaining functions, like heartbeat and breathing.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were almost 5.0 million adults over 65 years of age with dementia in 2014. The agency projects the number to reach 14 million by 2060.

Alzheimer's is one of many neurodegenerative diseases that fall under the Dementia spectrum. It is the most common form of dementia, followed by vascular dementia, which comprises 10 percent of all dementia cases. Some other examples in the dementia spectrum include Lewy body dementia, Fronto-temporal dementia, and Mixed dementia. The latter include some reversible causes for which the brain degenerating disorder may have a reversible underlying cause. Such reversible conditions include medication side effects, vitamin deficiency, thyroid hormone imbalance, and increased pressure in the brain.

Treatment Options for Dementia

Generally speaking, the treatment for dementia depends on the underlying cause. That is if there is a proven treatment option. For instance, reversible forms of dementia will improve once we eliminate the underlying cause. However, the treatment options for a few other types of dementia are still under research.

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DementiaPhoto byNatasha ConnellonUnsplash

There are currently a handful of pharmaceutical medications and neurocognitive exercises available to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease and improve symptoms. Nonetheless, none has demonstrated efficacy in preventing and eliminating the widespread disease.

Utility of Cannabis or Marijuana in Treating Alzheimer's Dementia

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a commonly found constituent of the marijuana (Cannabis) plant. The latter herb is well known for its recreational use. (often illegal in many countries)

Another constituent of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the prime reason for its attractiveness for recreational use. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana that produces a "high or euphoria" in the users.

Despite the overwhelming controversy around the utility of Cannabis, recent scientific observations are pointing toward its potential benefit in certain medical conditions. For instance, CBD, the non-psychoactive component of marijuana shown to be effective in contracting severe chronic pain in some patients, counteract ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders) in adolescents, and help alleviate intractable seizures in children.

There are two major strains of the Cannabis plant. First, the Stiva strain is known for its mood-elevating properties, and the other, Indica, which one can typically recognize for its full-body effects, such as increasing deep relaxation and improving insomnia or sleeplessness.

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CannabisPhoto byAI-generated Image by the author using Wonder

Today one can find numerous hybrid versions of Sativa / Indica Strains with varying levels of THC and CBDs. That is high THC, THC/CBD combined, and high CBD.

The correlation between cannabis use and Alzheimer's dementia is somewhat a subject of controversy. Studies show that people who recreationally used marijuana showed reduced blood flow to the brain compared to those who never used the herb. The research demonstrated the most reduction around the brain's hippocampus region, which is associated with learning and memory. That is the area typically affected by Alzheimer's Dementia.

On the other spectrum, a study result recently published by John Staton Laws on phytomedicine shows that the Sativa variant of Cannabis may play some role in protecting brain cells in Alzheimer patients.

It is also evident that with the emerging advances in extraction methods, like phytochemical profiling technology, scientists are more and more discovering the difference between the effects of various Sativa extracts.

Scientists today postulate the synergistic relationships between various strains. This scientific breakthrough can provide valuable information in developing therapies for dementia in general and preventative treatments for Alzheimer's Dementia.

All in all, multiple pieces of evidence from various resources support the practical clinical application of marijuana cannabis.

Despite promising data, scientists need additional prospects using randomized and controlled clinical analyses to confirm their observations. Furthermore, they will pinpoint strains of marijuana plants that are effective in treating or preventing Alzheimer's Dementia.

Illumination Curated Publication initially publicized this article on Medium!

References

  1. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. "Does Marijuana Cause Alzheimer's and Other Forms of Dementia?" Accessed November 9, 2022. https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/marijuana-addiction/marijuana-and-alzheimers/
  2. Sativa vs. Indica vs. Hybrid: Chart, Different Use, Side Effects, More. "Beginner's Guide to Cannabis Plants and Strains." Accessed November 9, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/sativa-vs-indica
  3. What Is Dementia? | CDC. "What Is Dementia? | CDC," April 5, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/dementia/index.html#:~:text=Dementia%20is%20not%20a%20specific,a%20part%20of%20normal%20aging
  4. Mayo Clinic. "CBD: Safe and Effective?," December 18, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/is-cbd-safe-and-effective/faq-20446700
  5. Medical marijuana: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. "Medical Marijuana: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." Accessed November 9, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000899.htm.
  6. Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia. "Cannabis: Helpful or Harmful?" January 14, 2019. https://alz.org/news/2020/cannabis-helpful-or-harmful
  7. Being Patient. "Marijuana, CBD and Alzheimer's: Everything You Need to Know — Being Patient," May 31, 2022. https://www.beingpatient.com/cbd-alzheimers-thc-research/
  8. Verma, Rishabh, Farazul Hoda, Mawrah Arshad, Asif Iqubal, Ali Nasir Siddiqui, Mohammad Ahmed Khan, Syed Ehtaishamul Haque, Mohd Akhtar, and Abul Kalam Najmi. "Cannabis, a Miracle Drug with Polyvalent Therapeutic Utility: Preclinical and Clinical-Based Evidence." Cannabis, a Miracle Drug with Polyvalent Therapeutic Utility: Preclinical and Clinical-Based Evidence — FullText — Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids 2021, Vol. 4, №1 — Karger Publishers, May 21, 2021. https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/515042
  9. Alzheimer Society of Canada. "Cannabis and the Treatment of Dementia," June 24, 2018. http://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/how-can-i-treat-dementia/cannabis-treatment-dementia
  10. Kim, Seok Hee, Jin Won Yang, Kyung Han Kim, Jong Uk Kim, and Tae Han Yook. "A Review on Studies of Marijuana for Alzheimer's Disease — Focusing on CBD, THC." PubMed Central (PMC), December 31, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6970569/
  11. News-Medical.net. "The Neuroprotective Potential of Cannabis Sativa L. against Alzheimer's Disease," October 6, 2022. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20221006/The-neuroprotective-potential-of-Cannabis-sativa-L-against-Alzheimers-disease.aspx

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