Cannabis May Be Useful In Treating Alzheimer’s

Medicinal cannabis and Alzheimer's disease
Cannabis Image: BigStock

Researchers from Tel-Aviv University’s Abarbanel Mental Health Center have found the use of medicinal cannabis could improve the lives of Alzheimer’s patients.

As the world’s population is generally living longer, dementia conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease are increasing in prevalence. According to FightDementia, just in Australia alone there are 342,800 people living with dementia and that number is expected to grow to almost 900,000 by 2050.

Alzheimer’s is a devastating condition, so the race is on not only to find a vaccine and a cure, but also ways of better managing it.

The TAU study involved eleven Alzheimer patients who participated an open label, 4 week long prospective trial to determine the effects of  tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Ten patients completed the trial – and with some very promising results.

The researchers report:

“Significant reduction in CGI severity score (6.5 to 5.7; p <  0.01) and NPI score were recorded (44.4 to 12.8; p <  0.01). NPI domains of significant decrease were: Delusions, agitation/aggression, irritability, apathy, and sleep and caregiver distress.”

The researchers concluded that adding cannabis oil containing THC to Alzheimer patients’ drug regimen is a “safe and a promising treatment option.”

It’s not the first study to identify a potential for medical marijuana to be of benefit in treating the disease.

Previous research indicates THC inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and prevents AChE-induced amyloid beta-peptide (Abeta) aggregation, the key pathological marker of Alzheimer’s.

Not all of the limited research to date has been positive. Another small study found pills containing THC were no better than placebos in alleviating symptoms such as agitation, aggression and wandering. However, the dosage was low and well tolerated, so the researchers are considering a new trial using higher dosages.

On a related note – another interesting medical cannabis related discovery recently made at Tel-Aviv University occurred last year, when researchers determined the administration of cannabidiol (CBD) significantly helps heal bone fractures. CBD is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid that is believed to have a therapeutic effect in treating other conditions, such as epilepsy.

Lead researcher Dr. Yankel Gabet said the effect on bone healing was so marked, it was “simply undeniable“.