Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, where an ongoing decline of brain function affects the sufferer’s memory, thinking skills, ability to care for themselves and other mental abilities. Mood swings and difficulty processing language are other symptoms. Age and genetics are the biggest risk factors in the development of Alzheimer’s, but depression, hypertension and head injuries are also contributing factors.

There is a lot of debate surrounding the use of cannabis for Alzheimer’s. Cannabinoids have the ability to promote neurogenesis, and some believe that they can be used to potentially delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is also characterized by the formation of a plaque caused by the clumping together of the amino acid, amyloid beta. There is some evidence that a low dose of THC “directly interacts with Aβ peptide, thereby inhibiting aggregation.” Nearly 30 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

However, most of the experiments on using cannabis for Alzheimer’s have been carried out on animals and extracted tissues, rather than living humans. THC’s effects on short-term memory may also be of concern for Alzheimer’s patients, and it could be the case that small amounts of THC may be helpful, whilst high amounts of THC are best avoided. CBD may be of particular help by promoting neurogenesis, which can help prevent or even “resuscitate” dead or malfunctioning receptors, which can also help prevent anxiety. Small doses of THC may be helpful in removing preventing amyloid beta from clumping together. However, evidence is mostly in labs or anecdotal, and there are few definitive studies. Yet, medications based on synthetic versions of THC, such as marinol and dronabinol, are being tested for the treatment of agitation in those with Alzheimer’s. However, whether synthetic versions of THC are as effective or as safe for Alzheimer’s disease or any number of other conditions is a concern. Overall, naturally-derived cannabinoids from the cannabis plant are generally the safest and most tolerable, as well as deserving of more research. It it is an issue when synthetic cannabinoids – which can be extremely powerful and dangerous, especially as they are often untested – are used in place of natural cannabinoids.

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