What The New Studies On Cannabis For Dementia Say
Dementia is a condition that is progressive by nature, characterized by failing cognitive function. People with dementia struggle with memory lapses, orientation, comprehension, thinking, learning, and even judgment. It can occur as a result of diseases that affect the brain such as a stroke or Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia, as one of the major causes of dependency and disability in the world today, is not only a burden among the people who suffer from it but it also takes a toll on their families and caregivers.
The most common symptom of dementia is a general forgetfulness; patients lose track of time, they tend to feel lost even in familiar places, have difficulty with short term memory, and need help with basic personal care.
But there are more new promising studies that show cannabis can prevent and delay the symptoms of dementia. Here’s what the new research says.
Plant-Derived Cannabis Extracts Decrease Symptoms Of Dementia
Clinical research recently published in the Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids reveals that daily consumption of plant-derived extracts containing a 2:1 ratio of CBD:THC was found to be beneficial in reducing behavioral problems and agitation among patients with severe dementia.
For the study, Swiss researchers analyzed the impact of cannabis extracts over the course of two months. The participants, which were made up of a cohort of 10 female patients currently living in a nursing home, demonstrated a significant improvement in rigidity, agitation, as well as behavioral problems after cannabis treatment. Meanwhile, half of the participants were able to stop or decrease their other medications.
“An oral cannabis extract with THC/CBD… was well tolerated and greatly improved behavior problems, rigidity, and daily care in severely demented patients, concluded the authors.”
Cannabinoids Prevent Onset Of Dementia
Another study published in 2017, led by Professor David Schubert and researchers at the Salk Institute in California, found overwhelming evidence that THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids are beneficial in getting rid of proteins in the brain that cause dementia. This protein, called amyloid beta, was believed to appear in the brain prior to Alzheimer’s symptoms. But they found that administering cannabinoids helped in effectively removing it.
“Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,” says Professor Schubert.
“Inflammation in the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves,” explains postdoctoral researcher for Professor Schubert Antonio Currais.
“When we were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to amyloid beta, it became clear that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the cells from dying.”
More Studies Coming Our Way
In the UK, researchers were given the green light to study the impact of Sativex, a pharmaceutical cannabinoid mouth spray containing both THC and CBD, on dementia.
“Current treatments for behavioral and psychiatric symptoms of dementia are very limited, and we desperately need to develop alternatives,” explains psychiatrist Dag Aarsland, who will be supervising the trials. “Doctors sometimes prescribe antipsychotic medications, and while these drugs can have important benefits, these need to be weighed against the risk of very serious side effects.”
“With no new dementia treatments in over 15 years, it is vital that we test a wide range of approaches to find effective ways to help people living with the condition,” says David Reynolds, Ph.D. of Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Early in April, researchers from the University of Notre Dame in Australia were also given the go-signal to begin recruiting people to engage in a ground-breaking study of cannabis n treating dementia. It is said to be a world-leading clinical trial, which will take place at the school’s Institute for Health Research in cooperation with MGC Pharmaceuticals, an Israeli-based company.
The trial will take place over 14 months, involving 50 subjects aged 65 and up who suffer from mild dementia and reside in a nursing home. According to chief investigator Amanda Timler, cannabis “works well with a lot of behavioral and neuro-psychotic symptoms associated with dementia, such as aggression and agitation.” In Australia, there are over 447,000 people who live with dementia, who are being taken cared of by 1.5 million Australians.