Marijuana is still a controversial topic in the medical field, with some doctors recommending its use in treating various illnesses and others concerned about its long-term effects and addictive properties.
Since there are still a lot of gray areas in marijuana legalization and regulation, there hasn’t been any extensive research about the effectiveness of marijuana in treating terminal and chronic illnesses. Nonetheless, research is still underway to explore marijuana as a reliable alternative to pharmaceutical products, and some studies are focusing on the effects of medical marijuana on Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.
In this article, we will be discussing some of these studies to try and evaluate the effectiveness of medical marijuana for Alzheimer’s patients.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia that can cause loss of memory and creates problems in normal behavior and thinking. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease develop very slowly and usually tend to worsen with age. In some cases, the symptoms become so severe that they interfere with the patient’s ability to perform daily tasks.
There are three main stages of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Preclinical (before symptoms)
- Cognitive impairment
Medical Tests for Alzheimer’s disease
There are no medical tests by which doctors can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, doctors look for different signs and symptoms, and rule out other diseases before making a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s.
Certain tests that doctors may conduct in order to assess the neurological function of a patient include MRI Scan, CT scan, blood and urine test as well as screening for depression.
After ruling out other conditions, doctors may carry out memory tests and cognitive tests to assess the patient’s ability to think and remember. Only after a thorough assessment do doctors conclude that a person has Alzheimer’s disease.
Signs of Alzheimer’s disease
One of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease is difficulty in remembering fresh information.
It is common to experience problems in remembering events or information occasionally, as well as develop slowed thinking. This is because the brain changes along with the body as we age. However, when memory loss tends to be a little more extreme and frequently leads to confusion, it is a sign that the brain cells are failing.
Alzheimer’s disease begins in the part of the brain which is responsible for learning. This is why a person may experience difficulty in remembering newly acquired information in the early stages. As the disease advances, it leads to much more severe symptoms, such as behavioral changes, mood swings, and complete disorientation, which also leads to confusion about place and time. A person may stop recognizing their family and friends as the disease progresses. In its last stages, people with Alzheimer’s disease forget how to talk, walk or eat.
Due to memory loss, patients never recognize that they have a problem, which makes the treatment of the disease even more difficult. Signs of Alzheimer’s disease are more obvious to friends and family, so they must take their loved one to see a doctor as soon as they notice the problem.
What Causes Alzheimer’s disease?
According to the NIH, Alzheimer’s disease is mainly caused by changes in genetics.
A person who inherits a genetic mutation from his or her parents, who suffered from some sort of disease, is likely to develop the same disease as their parents. Along with cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, early-onset familial Alzheimer’s is a disease that is inherited by a genetic disorder.
Factors other than genes which may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, which include various vascular conditions like blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
The unavoidable risk factors of developing Alzheimer’s disease include:
- A family history of Alzheimer’s
- Carrying mutated genes
However, there are certain manageable or modifiable risk factors of developing Alzheimer’s disease as well, including:
- Exercising regularly
- Managing or treating cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity
- Keeping a healthy diet
- Lifelong training and cognitive learning
There are some studies which even indicate that remaining socially and mentally engaged considerably reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
There are certain factors that may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as well, including:
- Exposure to toxic elements, such as industrial chemicals, pesticides and environmental contaminants
- Having repeated traumatic brain injuries
Is there a cure?
Currently there is no cure for treating Alzheimer’s disease. This is because the medical field is yet to make a breakthrough to bring dead brain cells back to life. However, there are several ways in which the effects of Alzheimer’s disease can be managed and the progression of the disease prevented.
This is where medical marijuana comes in.
The effects of Medical Marijuana on Beta-Amyloid
Beta-Amyloid is an amino acid that is found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. This protein is thought to be the key contributor to the progression of the disease. There are various studies that have reported the effectiveness of marijuana in stopping and killing off these toxic proteins in the brain, thereby preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported that small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound found in marijuana, can slow down the production of beta-amyloid proteins.
Another study backs this claim and supports THC as effective for the prohibiting the growth of amyloid plaque. However, these studies in no way claim that THC can be safely used by everyone for preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Similar findings were reported by the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. The study was conducted in laboratory-grown neurons and provided insight into the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease. It provides conclusive evidence that THC and other marijuana compounds reduce beta-amyloid in the cerebrum, thereby preventing the spread of the neurodegenerative disease.
The findings are still quite preliminary however, the researchers are quite optimistic about their discovery. David Schubert, Salk professor and senior author of the research paper stated that their study is the first of its kind and demonstrates that THC and other cannabinoids is effective against inflammation and can prevent the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain cells.
A study published in NatureResearch Journal reported that when beta-amyloid is exposed to THC, the number of beta-amyloid cells in the brain reduce, allowing the nerve cells to survive.
The effectiveness of Medical Marijuana in treating the effects of Alzheimer’s disease
There are various psychiatric effects of Alzheimer’s disease on the patient, including depression, aggression, hallucinations, and anxiety. Medical marijuana can be used for treating these effects in order to enable a patient to cope with their condition.
There are various studies that have proven the effectiveness of medical marijuana in dealing with depression. THC is chemically similar to endocannabinoids, which is the compound in the brain for behavior, emotions, motor control and cognition. When the production of this compound is stopped for any reason, the person may experience depression. By consuming THC, the symptoms of depression can be lowered.
Similarly, cannabidiol (CBD) is another compound found in marijuana and is known for its antipsychotic effects. It is a non-psychoactive compound in marijuana and has several therapeutic effects. Patients can consume CBD oil or capsules in order to deal with anxiety, aggression and other psychiatric disorders.
Medical marijuana in treating Alzheimer’s
As mentioned earlier, there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s as dead brain cells cannot be brought back to life. However, a study conducted by Abarbanel Mental Health Center along with Tel-Aviv University concluded that adding medical marijuana oil to the pharmacotherapy for Alzheimer’s patients is a promising and safe option for treatment.
It is one of the first clinical studies conducted on the topic and included 11 Alzheimer’s patients.
Consider Getting a Medical Marijuana Card
Even though medical marijuana is legal in most of the states, it is better to obtain a medical marijuana card before starting any sort of treatment regimen.
Medical marijuana cards provide access to a large number of medical dispensaries, which have marijuana supplied from reputable growers. Because of this, patients have access to higher quality products and are able to treat their ailment much more effectively. Medical marijuana cardholders can carry as much marijuana as they can, without any restrictions. There are no restrictions to growing marijuana at home as well.
These cards also help save money, as individuals carrying marijuana cards are not liable to pay sales tax.
We are an online telehealth platform that assists military veterans, wheelchair professionals and first responders in obtaining a medical marijuana card online. We make sure that we follow all the regulations and laws of different states. In addition to that, we ensure that all of our practices are in compliance with HIPAA.
You can also visit our website for an online evaluation with one of our doctors. They can also provide answers to any query you might have like does cannabis cure cancer. You do not have to worry about the quality of marijuana. Contact us now.