In recent years people have asked about marijuana stopping Alzheimer’s and many other illnesses. One of the problems with exploring that question is there has been a lack of research due to federal laws restricting cannabis. But plenty of evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s is one of many health conditions that cannabis can treat.
What Scientists Have Learned from Studies
Despite the lack of research on marijuana’s effectiveness as a medicine, there have been a handful of major cannabis studies this century that point to the plant’s healing qualities. In 2005 the Cajal Institute and Madrid’s Complutense University teamed up for a study of rats on how a synthetic version of marijuana’s active ingredient reduced inflammation and helped prevent mental health problems.
In 2012 a study by Andras Bilkei-Gorzo at Institute of Molecular Psychiatry at the University of Bonn, Germany, found that marijuana reduces inflammation in various ways. The study pointed to marijuana suppressing brain degenerating conditions such as Alzheimer’s. The author suggested that marijuana can be useful in slowing down the brain-aging process. Another study by University of Florida and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia in 2014 found therapeutic effects of THC for diminishing or blocking the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Yet another study from Salk Institute in 2016 found evidence that THC is capable of removing amyloid beta at the cellular level. Amyloid beta protein is what causes an aging brain to accumulate plaque.
Marijuana and the Brain
Alzheimer’s patients can gain pain relief from marijuana, which can be ingested various ways. Yet the UK-based Alzheimer’s Society says that there is no evidence that cannabis can help prevent the disease. At the same time, the organization says that use of cannabis or cannabinoids may help manage behavioral symptoms associated with dementia. It can reduce stress and aggression.
A 2016 study from Salk Institute found that THC helps remove toxic clumps of amyloid beta protein in the brain. These clumps are believed to be the catalyst for Alzheimer’s disease. But scientists are still unclear as to what causes the disease or why these lesions develop on the brain. What scientists do know is that this type of inflammation makes up the core of damage associated with the disease.
Scientists have observed that nerve cells help protect cells from dying by taking on properties of THC. But studying THC involves government red tape, so scientists have been studying J147, which has similar effects as THC.
How Marijuana Helps Alzheimer’s Patients
One of the key reasons why scientists should be allowed to explore marijuana as treatment is that it has been known to provide pain relief for people in which traditional drugs have failed. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, as over five million Americans suffer from the disease. Costs associated with late-stage dementia are higher than for any other illness.
Since health care costs usually skyrocket for dementia patients, these individuals can save money by switching to medical marijuana for treatment. Not many new drugs have been developed this century specifically to treat Alzheimer’s. Only one new clinical trial for Alzheimer’s was approved by the FDA between 2002 and 2012, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Drug maker Eli Lily announced in November 2016 that an experimental drug it had been working on to treat Alzheimer’s had failed in clinical trials. Merck abandoned a drug for Alzheimer’s around the same time. There are currently five pharmaceutical drugs available in the United States for treating Alzheimer’s. But these drugs have not been proven to be reliable.
Marijuana, on the other hand, has been reliable at reducing side effects of other medication, as well as reducing chronic pain. While prescription drugs have generated mixed results over a slow evolution, marijuana may be the path to quicker answers as to the best way to treat Alzheimer’s.
Laws and attitudes are changing about marijuana, which may be the key to reducing symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s. Patients need an affordable alternative to high-priced medicine that has not been proven to be effective. Medical marijuana appears to offer new insights for understanding the physical aspects of dementia.