Alzheimer’s disease is a frightening thing to imagine having, yet so many people live with it daily. In fact, it’s estimated that more than five million Americans have it today. And it doesn’t start with the elderly. Early on-set Alzheimer’s disease affects 200,000 Americans under the age of 65, too.
Unfortunately, current treatment for Alzheimer’s cannot stop or reverse its progression. What’s more, is that Alzheimer’s disease is a relatively new condition. It’s not a normal process of aging, causing great concern among doctors.
With a lack of treatment available, scientists have begun to study holistic treatments. CBD — one of the many cannabinoids found in cannabis — has turned out to be a promising option. Apart from scientists, people themselves have taken their own course of action. Through viral video accounts and online forums, people have spread the awareness of what CBD oil can do for those with Alzheimer’s — and at times, the results can be breath-taking.
To understand how CBD can help with the treatment we must first examine the complex relationship between CBD and the endocannabinoid system (ECS), as well as the disease itself. The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors are used as anesthetics for animals including humans. A consistent feature of a brain with Alzheimer’s is the presence of senile plaques.
The senile plaques are located within various brain regions. However, the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, and amygdala are particularly vulnerable. When senile plaque begins to form in these regions early in the disease, memory loss and behavioral changes will start to occur.
Alzheimer’s disease is extremely complex and usually has seven different stages.
Stage 1: No impairment or preclinical Alzheimer’s. During this stage, Alzheimer’s disease is not detectable and no memory problems or other symptoms of dementia are evident. The only reason people may request a check-up from a doctor at this point is because of family history with the disease.
Stage 2: A very mild decline. It’s normal to be forgetful after a certain age, but what differs here is the consistency of forgetfulness. Things like mistaking a family members name, or where you’ve placed something is common in this stage.
Stage 3: A mild decline is hard to notice too. At this point, only close family members or friends will begin to notice symptoms. At times, people at this stage may forget words or names, and even familiar routes when traveling.
Stage 4: A moderate decline can last up to two years to fully notice. Mood changes and insisting that there’s nothing different are very common. A doctor can test this by asking the patient to count backward from 100 in sevens.
Stage 5: A moderately severe decline requires a lot of support from family or caregivers. When not enough support is given, the person may feel increasingly emotional, angry, or suspicious.
Stage 6: Severe decline. There are obvious signs at this stage, including the inability to get dressed, maintain hygiene, or going to the bathroom.
Stages 7: Very Severe Decline. This is the most upsetting stage for most family members of the patient. Speech can be reduced to only six words, or none at all. They require constant care, as most of the time they can’t lift their head. Around the clock care is essential.
A preclinical study found that very small doses of THC — a chemical found in cannabis — can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins, which are thought to be a key contributor to the progression of Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, the effects THC have only slown down the effects. While the NMDA receptor antagonist, memantine, can modify the disease, it cannot reverse the process of neurodegeneration. The use of certain cannabinoids can slow that process down.
In regards to CBD oil, much more research is needed to fully understand how it works with treating Alzheimer’s. There are testimonies that THC can work, but a lot of people deem it as unethical to give to the elderly.
The properties of THC look to be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s in the future and will continue to be examined. Hopefully, in the near future, cannabis will become an option in part for the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.