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Cannabis and Alzheimer's

Cannabis and Alzheimer’s Disease

Due to important research being conducted over the last few decades, much more is known about Alzheimer’s disease and new treatments are becoming available.

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, a general decline in metal ability that includes memory loss. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, and symptoms include increasing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. The deterioration of the brain due to Alzheimer’s often leads to serious obstacles of living an independent life.

While most people are over 60 when Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, up to 5% may experience “early onset” Alzheimer’s that presents in the 40s or 50s. While people tend to think of memory loss and dementia as a part of the aging process, Alzheimer’s is not “normal” aging. Cells in the brain begin to lose their ability to function properly, believed to be due to plague and protein “tangles.” Everyone experiences some plague and tangles in the brain as they age, but this happens more with those who have Alzheimer’s. Nerve cells eventually begin to die, which leads to memory loss, difficulty in thinking clearly, and unusually behavior.

Often, the first signs of Alzheimer’s is the inability to remember things that have just happened, like where keys were set or what someone just said. This then leads to progressive changes in memory, as well as combative behavior and troubled thinking.

Cannabis and Alzheimer’s Disease

Recent studies show that THC may “slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.” One of the proteins that accumulates in the brain, the process that appears to lead to Alzheimer’s, is reduced with low dosages of THC. Low dosages of THC also can stimulate the function of mitochondria, the central part of cells. This means that low THC dosages can help improve the function of the brain and may protect the brain from the build-up of some proteins that can lead to Alzheimer’s. The key to this study was the low dosages of THC so that there was no toxicity and memory loss that can occur with higher dosages.

Additional benefits of cannabis as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease include its anti-inflammatory effects. This can help with the function of the brain. As many Alzheimer patients can become combative and present abnormal behavior, patient and care-giver stories detail how cannabis has helped improve the mental outlook of those with the disease, helping everyone in the family/household lead a higher quality lifestyle.

Traditional treatment methods often include medications that can negatively affect other areas of the body, including muscle spasms. Topical treatments of cannabinoids can help sooth muscle spasms and joint pain. In addition, medical marijuana can help with weight loss associated with Alzheimer’s by stimulating appetite, as well as improve sleep and promote a more positive outlook.

Like many diseases, cannabis offers solutions to symptoms of Alzheimer’s in a variety of ways. Most exciting is the research that shows that low THC dosages may actually help protect brain cells and improve brain function of those with Alzheimer’s. While further research needs to be done, cannabis offers hope to a devastating disease that is the sixth cause of death in the US today.

For more information visit the Alzheimer’s Association.

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