Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior, with symptoms usually developing slowly around age 65 or older and worsening over time. Eventually, symptoms become severe enough to interfere with daily tasks and for many, is a precursor to dementia. Memory loss and confusion are the two effects most often associated with Alzheimer’s, but many also experience agitation, aggression, discontent and irritability to name a few.
How Does Alzheimer’s Develop?
Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be the result from the build-up, potentially due to inflammation, of two types of lesions in the brain: neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques. Neurofibrillary tangles are caused by defective tau proteins that clump into an insoluble mass and amyloid plaques are composed of dense clusters of beta-amyloid proteins. In a healthy brain, these protein compounds are broken down and eliminated, but for those with Alzheimer’s, the fragments accumulate and form masses of plaques in the brain.
Medical Marijuana and Alzheimer’s
A preclinical study published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that small doses of THC slowed the production of beta-amyloid proteins, one of the key contributors to Alzheimer’s. The reduced levels of the proteins then allowed the healthy nerve cells to survive in the brain. Researchers from Tel-Aviv University and Bar-Ilan University conducted a small study on the effects of using medical marijuana on patients over the course of four weeks and, although only a small case, researchers concluded that:
“Adding medical cannabis oil to Alzheimer’s patients’ pharmacotherapy is a safe and promising treatment option.”
In addition to the potential of slowing the progress of the disease, medical marijuana can also alleviate common conditions that come with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, such as depression and appetite loss.
The most common cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation, come with side effects such as fatigue, nausea and concentration loss—just a few of the side effects that medical cannabis has been known to alleviate. Neuropathic pain, caused by damaged nerves, is another side effect that cancer patients relieve when using medical marijuana.
Beyond the physical effects of managing cancer, medical marijuana has helped patients with the struggle of mental side effects, such as depression and anxiety. In 2014, a poll conducted by MedScape and WebMD found that more than 75% of US physicians think that medical marijuana provides real therapeutic benefits to cancer patients, and of those polled, 82% of oncologists believed that medical marijuana should be offered as a treatment option to patients.
Dr. Donald Abrams, Chief of Hematology-Oncology at San Francisco General hospital stated in an interview with Newsweek (on medical marijuana):
“I could write six different prescriptions, all of which may interact with each other or the chemotherapy that the patient has been prescribed. Or I could just recommend trying one medicine.”
The information provided should not be used as a substitution for physician knowledge. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment with medicinal marijuana.