Alzheimer's and Medical Cannabis

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia that affects old people, causing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. AD develops slowly and it is usually unnoticed until it starts affecting your daily tasks. Alzheimer’s corresponds to 60% to 80% of the cases of dementia. AD also come with some consequences, people with the disease are likely to develop depression, agitation, appetite loss and other symptoms.

This disease is characterized by three stages of evolution, it has the mild (early-stage), moderate (middle-stage) and severe (late-stage). AD affects people in different ways, so it is not possible to tell how long will these symptoms progress in each person. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, so after a person is diagnosed with it, this individual will live for four to eight years, but depending on the circumstances, they can live as long as 20 years.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s includes:

  • Memory loss that affects how you do your daily activities
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Difficult judging distance, determine visual images, which leads to problems with driving
  • Problems with speaking, reading or writing
  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Misplacing things or difficult to retrace steps

The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. is of 5 million, a number which can get as high as 16 million people by 2050. The causes of Alzheimer’s are believed to be a combination of lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors that affect the brain. Some risky factors increase the probability of a person developing AD, like Down syndrome, family history and genetics, past head trauma, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and others.

Various studies have shown that many substances of cannabis can help patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive substance of the cannabis plant, has properties that according to studies is able to treat a number of pathologies found in AD. A study made with a model mouse of AD confirmed the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD after receiving CBD injections for 7 days. Other study showed that CBD exerts a combination of neuroprotective, anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic effects against beta-amyloid peptide toxicity, the membrane that Alzheimer is widely associated with.

At the 2003 annual meeting of the Psychogeriatric Association, Clinical Data reported that the substance Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) after 10 mg administrated orally, reduced agitation and stimulated weight gain in severe state of Alzheimer patients. The substance THC was also previously reported to help patients with weight gain and a decrease in negative feelings, said the investigators in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in 1997.

The journal Molecular Pharmaceutics published online in 2006 a study that pointed THC as responsible for inhibiting the formation of the amyloid plaque, the primary pathological marker for Alzheimer’s disease. The study conducted by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute used both computer modeling and biochemical assays. THC inhibited the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) that acts as a “molecular chaperone” to accelerate the formation of amyloids plaques in people with Alzheimer. The study said that THC “may provide an improved therapeutic for AD” which would treat the symptoms and the progression of the disease on the patients.