Dementia currently affects over 35 million people worldwide. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Treatments for AD does not stop or reverse the progression of the disease and they are plagued by side effects and currently there is no cure for the disease. The United Nations has estimated by the year 2050 there will be 370 million people older than 80. Due to the fact of a rising elderly population, there has been a rise in the prevalence of age related illnesses.
With AD being such a problem, as well as the treatment of the disease, scientists have began to study potential holistic treatments for this devastating disease. CBD, one of the 60+ compounds found in cannabis, has turned out to be a promising option for the treatment of AD.
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 (NMDA) are used as anesthetics for animals including humans. A consistent feature of the AD brain is the presence of senile plaques. The senile plaques are located within various brain regions but the hippocampus, cerebral cortex and amygdala are particularly vulnerable and plaques begin to form in these regions early in the disease process resulting in memory loss and behavioral changes.
There are usually 7 stages of the disease: Stage 1: No Impairment. During this stage, Alzheimer’s disease is not detectable and no memory problems or other symptoms of dementia are evident, Stage 2: Very Mild Decline, Stage 3: Mild Decline, Stage 4: Moderate Decline, Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline, Stage 6: Severe Decline, Stages 7: Very Severe Decline. The endocannabinoid system is the way that your body interacts with cannabis. A preclinical study found that very small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical found in cannabis, can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins, thought to be a hallmark characteristic and key contributor to the progression of Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately the effects THC have only slow down the effects of AD, also while the NMDA receptor antagonist, memantine, can modify the disease, it cannot reverse the process of neurodegeneration. The use of Cannabis slows that process down.
The properties of THC look to be beneficial in the treatment of ad 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.