Alzheimer’s is a neurological disorder, which destroys memory and thinking capabilities. Patients with this condition experience difficulty in planning or solving problems. Other symptoms are—trouble completing tasks, confusion with time/place, misplacing things, mood swings, and poor decision-making skills.
If you have these symptoms, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. On average, 5.8 million people in the US age 65 are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2020.
Research says that marijuana’s medicinal properties can help in managing Alzheimer's symptoms. But, how can the herb help the patients? Is it better than medications? Read on to learn more.
Medical Marijuana For Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is associated with cognitive impairment. Age is a key factor that increases the risks of this disease. However, it’s not right to say that age is a direct cause of Alzheimer’s.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, most patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are 65 or older. After age 65, the risks double every five years. And, after age 85, the risks are about ⅓.
Alzheimer’s can affect patients’ mood & behavior and may cause depression, social anxiety, change in sleep patterns, etc. And, marijuana can help in managing these symptoms.
Let’s now understand how the condition develops and how medical marijuana works.
Alzheimer’s usually starts by attacking the hippocampus, a brain region associated with memory processing. So, in the initial stages, patients experience cognitive impairment. Over time, it may result in anxiety, depression, and other symptoms, thus affecting the brain functioning. In some cases, the patients may experience trouble breathing and swallowing.
Additionally, the buildup of Aß plaques can lead to brain inflammation, and increase free radicals, which can worsen the condition. This can result in releasing glutamate, thus killing neurons associated with brain signaling.
So, for the treatment, the major objectives are—reducing Aß plaques and free radicals, reducing inflammation, and preventing the release of glutamate.
THC and CBD are the two important cannabinoids with amazing anti-inflammatory properties. They can help in reducing brain inflammation, which is the major cause of the development of Alzheimer's disease.
According to a report published in Neuroscience in 2006, activation of CB1 receptor sites delivered anti-inflammatory effects. And, cannabinoids can help in that.
THC can help in reducing amyloid. A study published in Molecular Pharmaceutics reported that tetrahydrocannabinol slowed the amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) overgrowth.
Moreover, cannabinoids can help in stimulating cell growth, thus reducing the risks of Alzheimer's disease.
Does CBD Work?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive chemical compound with amazing medicinal properties.
Research says that CBD can help prevent cell death. But, how does CBD protect brain cells? Actually, it reduces the activation of microglia, which makes up to 10 percent of the brain. Although microglia help in protecting brain cells, they may cause negative effects instead of positive ones.
According to a study published in Wiley Online Library in 2004, CBD’s anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and anti-apoptotic properties can help in reducing neurotoxicity associated with amyloid buildup.
Moreover, CBD improves memory and cognitive abilities. Research says that it can help reduce damage to cognitive functions associated with age, condition, or terrifying event.
Medical experts believe that combining THC and CBD can deliver better effects. In fact, the combination therapies work effectively in the initial stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Marijuana vs Alzheimer’s Medications
In Alzheimer’s disease, brain cells die, thus affecting cell signaling and cognitive function. Prescription medications for this disease can’t prevent this damage. But, they can help manage the symptoms temporarily.
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved two classes of medications for Alzheimer’s—cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept®, Exelon®, Razadyne®) and memantine (Namenda®) for managing cognitive symptoms, such as memory loss, confusion, and thinking capabilities.
However, these medications have certain side-effects. These include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, etc. Check more information about Alzheimer’s medications here.
Anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDs (for example ibuprofen) can also help reduce the risks of the development of Alzheimer’s disease. But, they aren’t safe to use, especially for seniors. Their chronic use may lead to kidney damage and various other health risks.
However, marijuana compounds such as CBD and THC don't lead to such risks, thus they are safe to use.
How to Consume Marijuana For Alzheimer’s Disease?
Smoking flowers is one of the best methods of receiving the medicinal effects of cannabis. It delivers immediate effects. But, there are some risks. Like cigarette smoke, marijuana smoke can cause irritation in the throat and may lead to heavy coughing during use.
However, medical experts don’t recommend smoking cannabis for patients with lung disease.
So, what’s the alternative? Opt for safe methods of cannabis consumption. Edibles (marijuana-infused cookies, brownies, beverages, etc.) are safe to consume for receiving medicinal effects. One core benefit of eating cannabis is that it doesn’t lead to lung problems. However, it’s important to note that edibles take longer to deliver their effects.
Another option is—tinctures and sublingual sprays. These are cannabis extracts mixed into alcohol or glycerine solutions. Just put a few drops under your tongue for a few minutes, and cannabinoids will be absorbed through the mouth tissues.
If you are worried about the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis use, start with CBD oil. It will provide you relaxation, anti-inflammation, and anti-anxiety effects without delivering high effects.
Additionally, you can use dabbing. It involves heating cannabis concentrate at a high temperature and inhaling the vapors. There’s a wide range of concentrates with varying levels of THC and CBD. Some concentrates may contain high THC content, thus causing strong psychoactive effects. So, be careful when buying concentrates, and always seek professional help to know what’s right for you.
For Alzheimer’s patients, it’s important to reduce amyloid plaques buildup, manage inflammation, improve cognitive function. And, cannabis compounds such as THC and CBD can help you achieve these objectives.
THC and CBD don’t cause any negative effects as medications do. Combining optimal levels of CBD and THC can help you receive the required medicinal effects.
Consumption method. Smoking is a widely popular method for cannabis use, but it’s not safe for seniors. The alternatives such as edibles, tinctures, dabbing, etc. can help you manage Alzheimer’s symptoms safely, effectively, and easily.
If you are thinking of taking cannabis for Alzheimer’s or giving it to your loved one with this condition, make sure you analyze its effects. Start with a low dose of CBD oil. Once you learned how it interacts with your system, you can increase the dose, try THC oils, and use combination therapies of THC and CBD.
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