Cannabis has been found to have health benefits and is used to treat a wide variety of illnesses and ailments. Different forms of the plant have been studied in relation to Alzheimer’s and other Dementias, with remarkable effects.

What the Research Says

Studies from 2014 and from 2016 into the potential benefits of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)/medical cannabis oil for Alzheimer’s found promising results. THC appeared to be a safe and therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease based on these findings. One notable symptom of the disease that was significantly improved with forms of cannabis treatment was agitation, which means that the individual is restless and may be unable to settle, may experience sleep disturbances or may even become aggressive.

According to Krista Lanctôt, who conducted research into how a synthetic form of cannabis called nabilone may help dementia patients, the existing treatments for agitation in Alzheimer’s patients do not work for everyone and have a high risk of mortality amongst other possible harmful side effects. “As a result, there is an urgent need for safer medication options,” she stated in the study. Lanctȏt and her team of researchers found that agitation symptoms improved in patients taking nabilone compared to a placebo group. This clinical trial was sponsored by the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center and the University of Toronto.

Another synthetic form of cannabis called Marinol (which is not dissimilar to nabilone) was tested in Alzheimer’s patients by a team of Canadian researchers in 2003. They found that the drug helped to reduce agitation and helped patients gain weight.

Other research has even suggested that marijuana could even prevent Alzheimer’s disease from developing. THC has been found to remove toxic clumps of amyloid beta protein in the brain, and these are thought to trigger the development of Alzheimer’s disease. One of the researchers, David Schubert of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, says, “we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells.”

The Future of Medical Marijuana for Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Dr Howard Fillit, who is the chief science officer and founding executive director of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, said that larger studies demonstrating the safety of nabilone were needed. However, Fillit states that if these could be provided, it would “fill a huge unmet medical need.”

Many places are beginning to allow Alzheimer’s patients to be treated with medical marijuana, and in 2018 Minnesota become one of the latest US states to do this, which prompted some health researchers to voice their concerns. They claimed that the evidence itself is good, but there isn’t enough of it, and more published scientific research needs to be done. This indicates that further studies are needed to substantiate all of these claims, but from what we know so far, medical marijuana is a superior and safe alternative to the Alzheimer’s treatments currently available.

The way that things are going, it is likely that more and more places will allow medical marijuana to be legalised for different medical conditions, and dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are one example of health issues that may benefit from THC.