Just a few short years ago, the idea of treating Alzheimer’s Disease with cannabis was one which was alien to most people. However, in the past decade, the use of medical cannabis has become more acceptable than ever before. Now, many people are wondering how, if at all, cannabis could help in reversing the effects of late-stage Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the most common killers in the United States today. Current estimates place the number of deaths caused by this disease at around 95,541 per year. This places it in the top ten fatal diseases of the United States list. For this reason, it has also become one of the most heavily researched diseases on the planet.
Because the cause of this disease remains a mystery, research has been predominantly focused on the treatment of it’s symptoms. It is hoped that strides made in recent years will enable patients to slow the progression of the disease and hold onto their cognitive abilities for longer. Cannabis is one treatment option which many think could achieve these goals.
The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease tend to affect the cognitive functions of the brain. These include memory loss, changes to mood, irrational or aggressive behaviour and impaired judgement. For the most part, the physical functions of the body aren’t affected. However, in the late-stages of the disease, physical symptoms of Alzheimer’s being to appear. These can include:
These symptoms can, of course, be extremely distressing for both patients and loved ones. This is especially true as they can go on for years. There are medications that can be prescribed during this time. However, most act as sedatives, simply aiming to make the patient as comfortable as possible. It’s no wonder that many Alzheimer’s patients are looking to alternative treatments such as cannabis, or medical marijuana, for relief.
In relation to the potential of cannabis to treat the symptoms of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, studies and clinical trials have revealed some interesting data. The way in which the chemicals in cannabis react with the endocannabinoid system could possibly reduce some of the symptoms of this progressive and incurable disease.
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for a number of bodily functions. These include sleep, mood, appetite, pain and others. It’s thought that cannabis can help the system to restore balance to these various bodily functions. This could be beneficial to Alzheimer’s patients as a potential treatment.
Cannabis has been found to increase appetite. This could help to prevent the dramatic weight loss and loss of strength which are common symptoms of the disease. It is thought to improve mood and regulate sleep, which could improve energy and behaviour. There is also some evidence to suggest that cannabis can increase mobility. Finally, as cannabis is a powerful antibacterial, it could help to strengthen the immune system in Alzheimer’s patients.
However, all of this is still under investigation in research terms. Studies testing the effects of cannabinoids (the chemicals which are found in cannabis) on mice that have been injected with the disease showed promising results. It remains unclear as to exactly how cannabis affects the late-stages of Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
The truth is that scientists still don’t know the answer to this question. While some are very hopeful that the effects of cannabis consumption could counteract some of the effects of the late-stages of the disease, others are less so. Still more remain skeptical of the long term effects of cannabis use on the body in general.
Although there has been much medical cannabis research conducted in the past decade, there is still a lot we don’t know about the drug. For example, researchers are not sure of the variations of effects which can be caused by the many different strains of the plant. Each strain could affect Alzheimer’s disease differently, or they could not.
It is also not fully understood how cannabis interacts with other medications. As Alzheimer’s disease is a condition which effects the elderly for the most part, patients are very likely to be taking other medications on a daily basis. Researchers need to investigate how cannabis could respond to those other medications.
For now, the jury is still out. As research into the effects of cannabis Alzheimer’s treatment continues, it is expected that a clearer picture will develop. Only then will doctors be able to decide whether or not this is an appropriate, effective and safe treatment. Only then will we better understand the role of cannabis in the future of Alzheimer’s disease treatment.