Luke, September 13 2018

Cannabis and Dementia

The big news in the medical community is the use of cannabis, or marijuana, as a treatment for nausea, vomiting, pain and also appetite loss due to AIDS. The benefits are derived from when it’s smoked, and those benefits will take effect rapidly.

The Food and Drug Administration has given their approval to two medical marijuana pills which are nabilone and dronabinol which have been used after chemotherapy to treat nausea and also to treat the loss of appetite from AIDS-related loss of appetite. But where does medical marijuana fit in for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients?

 

What is marijuana?

Marijuana, otherwise known as cannabis or hemp, is a plant which has compounds which cause effects on the systems in your body. Marijuana includes the leaves, stems, dried flowers, the seeds and the stems. All of these contain cannabinoid compounds which have potential medical benefits and also produce mind-altering effects.

Everyone is affected differently by this plant because everyone’s neurotransmitter system, or endocannabinoid system, found in your body and your brain reacts differently. The active compound in cannabis is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but there are other compounds which also can exert their effects. For maximum physical results though, the higher the THC is, the more obvious is the outcome. Some bad side effects of cannabis can be anxiety, depression and psychotic illness. 

Can it help dementia patients?

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are neuro-degenerative conditions which are associated with oxidative stress and neuroinflammation. Studies have shown that perhaps medical marijuana could be helpful to treat some of the systems which are associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia such as depression and sleep disturbances.

Cannabis is created to affect the endocannabinoid system in the brain. This system has receptors which are called CB1 and CB2. In the memory and learning center, the CB1 receptor is found in the hippocampus and throughout the rest of the brain. In specialized immune cells called microglia, the CB2 receptors are found.

The endocannabinoid system works with memory, regulating appetite and how to respond to stress. When cannabis is taken or smoked, the THC can affect both of the receptors and transform them in different ways. Test studies on mice which showed symptoms of Alzheimer’s were given a combination OF CBD and THC. The mice had demonstrated improved learning skills and less of amyloid clumps, the Alzheimer’s hallmark, after being dosed.

There is more research being completed about what the benefits would be if someone with dementia used cannabis. Prolonged research is needed to figure out what the correct dosage would be, which form would be most beneficial either taken in pill form or smoking it, what would be the potential side effects. Hope for this treatment would be that it would relieve some of the more severe symptoms or maybe even slow the progression of the disease.

There have been some clinical trials on the effect of cannabis on dementia patients and their behavioral symptoms, but the tests haven’t formed a firm conclusion.

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Luke

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