Cannabis and Alzheimer’s Disease
More and more seniors are turning to cannabis to treat a variety of health conditions. According to Statistics Canada, people aged 65 and older are Canada’s fastest-growing group of cannabis users. Not only is cannabis effective for treating chronic pain and arthritis, but many researchers are also beginning to look at the use of cannabis to manage the basic signs of ageing. Today, many seniors are treating Alzheimer’s Disease with cannabis.
According to the most recent data, more than 402,000 seniors (65 years and older) are living with dementia in Canada which represents a prevalence of 7.1%. And according to the World Health Organization, 47.5 million people live with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, worldwide. They also note that with the growing ageing population in Canada these numbers are likely to increase in the coming years.
What’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Dementia refers to a set of symptoms and signs associated with a progressive deterioration of cognitive functions that affect daily activities. It is caused by various brain diseases and injuries. Symptoms of dementia can include memory loss, judgement and reasoning problems, and changes in behaviour, mood and communication abilities (source).
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.
Description of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly causes memory and cognitive impairment. Symptoms typically arise in the early 60s, unless it is considered early-onset where symptoms occur between a person’s 30s and 60s but that is rare – less than 10 percent of all people with Alzheimer’s.
With Alzheimer’s, damage to the brain generally begins years before symptoms appear. Abnormal protein deposits form plaques and tangles in the brain, connections between cells are lost, and they begin to die. In advanced cases, the brain shows significant shrinkage.
Symptoms typically include;
- a decline in the ability to think
- memory impairment
- communication impairment
- difficulty remembering recent events or conversations
- impaired judgment
- behavioural changes
- difficulty speaking, swallowing, or walking in advanced stages of the disease
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease but there are various medications that are typically used to manage the symptoms many of which have challenging side effects and negative long term impacts.
Treating Alzheimer’s with Cannabis
Cannabis is a potential alternative treatment not only for managing the systems of Alzheimer’s Disease with fewer side effects but for treating the cause of those systems.
Research on the effectiveness of cannabis for treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease is still in the beginning stages, but preliminary research provides evidence for its use.
- A 2018 study concluded that “Treating Alzheimer’s disease mice with the psychoactive compound found in marijuana improves memory and reduces neuronal loss, suggesting a possible therapy for the human disease.”
- A 2016 study found that THC helped reverse the buildup of harmful amyloid plaques within the brain that contribute to neurodegeneration through the death of brain cells. Researchers also found that THC reduces inflammation, which contributes to the damage of brain cells.
- In a 2016 study researchers administered medical cannabis oil to a small group of Alzheimer’s patients and observed a significant reduction in dementia symptoms, these included; delusions, agitation/aggression, irritability, apathy, sleep and caregiver distress. They concluded that cannabis treatment was a “safe and promising treatment option” for addressing Alzheimer’s symptoms.
- A 2014 study also examined the impact of THC on reducing amyloid plaque buildup and produced positive results. They found that interaction with the CB1 receptors to be one of the likely contributors to the effects they recorded.
More research is necessary to completely understand the mechanisms involved in treating Alzheimer’s Disease with cannabis.
How to Use Cannabis to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease
When it comes to older adults there are some potential issues related to the consumption of THC. Some doctors worry that impairment from cannabis may result in confusion or loss of balance that could result in a fall. For older adults, a fall is more likely to result in an injury. Therefore, doctors recommend seniors take CBD, or a combination of THC and CBD, to reduce these risks. (Note: CBD reduces the psychoactive effects of THC when consumed together).
Cannabis oils are often the consumption method of choice for seniors because it allows an easily controlled dose that can start small and increase slowly. Cannabis oils can be taken sublingually – dropped under the tongue- or added to food or beverages to make consumption simple.
Miss Envy has an entire line of cannabis oils in various concentrations of CBD, THC and combinations. Check them out on the website.
Cannabis is being used more among the ageing population to manage a wide range of health conditions and ailments. Although the research is still in its beginning stages, preliminary evidence provides support for its use for treating Alzheimer’s Disease.
If you, or a loved one, are using cannabis to treat challenged related to ageing or to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease we want to hear from you. Share your experience in the comments, tag us on social media, or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org