Cannabis and Alzheimer’s — Can Marijuana Slow Degenerative Diseases?
Several studies on cannabis and Alzheimer’s disease have already been done, and they have shown promising results. Cannabis has the potential to slow down the progression of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease as well as Parkinson’s disease.
A Quick Look at Alzheimer’s Disease and Its Effects
According to statistics, about 46.8 million individuals suffer from some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, worldwide. This number is expected to climb by 2030 to about 74.7 million.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of progressive degenerative disease of the brain that commonly affects older individuals. The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown. However, two proteins were found to be responsible for the development and progression of this disease. These proteins, beta-amyloid, and tau accumulate in the brain cells and alter their structure.
As they accumulate, these proteins damage the brain cells and disrupt their functions, resulting in the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. These include confusion, memory loss, mood changes, personality changes, cognitive problems, as well as language and speech difficulties. Late-stage Alzheimer’s disease also causes delusions and hallucinations.
Cannabis and Alzheimer’s Disease, What’s the Connection?
Studies on cannabis and Alzheimer’s disease showed that there are a number of ways cannabis controls the progression of this brain disease.
Scientists from the Salk Institute found that THC has the potential to reduce the accumulation of amyloid beta. They took samples of neurons with high amyloid beta protein levels and exposed them to THC. THC decreased the levels of this toxic protein and, at the same time, reduced inflammation. The accumulation of this toxic protein causes chronic inflammation in the brain cells, further damaging the neurons.
One of the pathological processes of Alzheimer’s disease involves the grouping of Tau proteins. When Tau proteins merge with other Tau proteins, they form minute tangles that disrupt the neuron’s functions. One study on cannabis and Alzheimer’s disease found that CBD stops this process. The same study also showed that CBD reduces chronic inflammation in brain cells, allowing neurons to survive.
High free radical levels damage the neurons and contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Recent, studies on cannabis and Alzheimer’s disease revealed that THC and CBD have neuroprotective properties. They are powerful antioxidant agents that protect the brain cells from the damages caused by high free radical levels. Additionally, they also reduce the accumulation of these toxic free radicals.
Cannabis and Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease
One notable clinical study on cannabis and Alzheimer’s disease featured 11 patients with Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to their current treatment regimen, they were also given medical cannabis oil. At the end of the four-week trial period, there was a significant reduction in their Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. They reported improvement in their delusions, aggression, mood changes, and sleep problems. There was also a reduction in caregiver distress.
We need more studies on cannabis and Alzheimer’s disease to determine how effective it is and to determine the most effective methods of treatment. But the studies we have now show that cannabis can, indeed, delay the progression of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. It is also a safe, effective, and promising add-on therapy to the patients’ current treatment regimen.