Marijuana in the Prevention and Treatment of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, characterized by memory loss and other impairments to one’s behavior and mental function. It is a progressive disorder that is most commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 65, but that can also occur in younger people in the form of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s, but research is ongoing and new advancements are being made every day. One of the most exciting areas of research is looking at the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s symptoms with the chemicals found in cannabis. Here are 5 studies with some interesting and exciting results:

Cannabinoids may help prevent neurodegeneration

A 2005 study published in The Journal of Neuroscience led researchers to conclude that certain chemical compounds which are found in cannabis, known as cannabinoids, could prevent the neurodegeneration caused by Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is known to cause damage to the brain’s glial cells, while cannabinoids do exactly the opposite and act as neuroprotective agents. This means that they may be able to stop the progression of mental and behavioral symptoms caused by Alzheimer’s.

THC superior to approved drugs

A 2006 study out of Molecular Pharmaceutics made the bold but definitely not unfounded claim that, “Compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is a considerably superior inhibitor of [Abeta] aggregation.”

According to this study, the aggregation of Abeta peptides is one of the main markers of Alzheimer’s disease. The research suggests that THC, the main psychoactive component in cannabis, is far superior to inhibiting this aggregation than any drugs currently approved for the job.

Alzheimer’s and inflammation

Neuroinflammation is commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients, while cannabis is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers in a 2006 study published in Neuroscience decided to put cannabinoid receptors to the test when it came to brain inflammation.

They found that activating the brain’s natural cannabinoid receptors (which is easily done with marijuana) does in fact lead to a decrease in brain inflammation, and suggested that this knowledge may help in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

THC and other cannabinoids are neuroprotective and antioxidant

A 1998 study that worked with rats came out with results which were still extremely promising for humans and likely led the way for much of the research which came after. It demonstrated that both the psychoactive THC and the non-psychoactive components of cannabis could be very therapeutic in treating disorders such as Alzheimer’s because they not only protect the brain and its neurons, but they also actively protect against harmful oxidative stress.

THC as a possible treatment for nighttime agitation

Finally, a study conducted in 2006 used THC in an effort to find a way to deal with “nighttime agitation.” This is a sleep disorder caused by Alzheimer’s that puts much stress and burden on caregivers. The study found that THC, in the form of dronabinol, not only led to a reduction in symptoms, but did so with absolutely no observable side-effects.