The idea of forgetting your most prized memories sounds scary. Around the world, millions of people are experiencing just that. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. In the US, Alzheimer is the sixth leading cause of death!
Researchers and healthcare providers alike have invested a lot of effort into finding possible cures for dementia. Some medicines are said to be effective in slowing the ailment down.
You might have heard Cannabis being used for the purpose of curing dementia. Currently there is no proven research that confirms this, but there is some work being done in this area.
Understanding Cannabis beyond a Drug
When you think of Cannabis, you think of it in the context of a recreational drug. However, it is much more than that. In fact, it assumes the role of medicine on various occasions. It is also used for treating symptoms of dementia.
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis is most commonly known as marijuana. It is a plant whose flowering parts, dried leaves, and resins are extracted and used for recreational purposes.
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a plant. The dried leaves, flowering parts or resin extracted from the plant is taken recreationally. It consists of two components, including Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC is what creates the infamous “high” feeling. It triggers feelings of happiness, sociability, and relaxation. Cannabidiol (CBD), on the other hand, is not a psychoactive element and hence does not cause the same effects as THC.
Effect of Cannabis on Dementia Patients
Alzheimer’s, which is the eventual stage of dementia, has a key symptom. And that is the building up of clumps, known as amyloid, in the brain. Some clinical trials have showcased how Cannabis components, including THC, seemingly help in reducing the protein clump. However, such studies have only been done on nerve cells that grow in the lab.
Another clinical trial featuring mice as participants also showcased the positive effect of both THC and CBD on the learning ability of the mice. It also led to lesser amyloid clump formation in the bodies.
To further strengthen the case of Cannabis, separate research reflected a reduction of brain inflammation in lab rats who were given CBD oil.
One thing that is common in all these trials is that they are on the initial stages. And their effectiveness is yet to be proven on people.
Role of Cannabis in Tackling Dementia Symptoms
Behavioral symptoms associated with Cannabis, including agitation as well as anxiety, have been observed to be minimized with the help of high concentration of CBD oil. While some clinical trials have assessed the effect of cannabinoid on dementia symptoms, none of them have been large scale enough to be conclusive.
Instances, where CBD oil did seem like a good cure for certain dementia symptoms, was when a high dosage of CBD oil was provided. However, it is imperative to note that this CBD oil is not readily available in such quality.
None of the studies conducted to gauge whether Cannabis is a cure for dementia were long-term in nature. Most of them were short-term. For something like dementia, which worsens with passing years of a person, a short-term solution may not be viable.
Verdict: Yay or Nay?
Does Cannabis help cure dementia? There is no strong research that proves that it does. Hence, myths, anecdotal episodes, and unique scenarios have assumed the role of solid facts.
One interesting thing to note here is that there aren’t any studies or trials that take into account the effect cannabis has on the underlying causes of dementia. Even the small-scale studies that have been conducted merely focus on the effect of Cannabis on symptoms of the ailment.
A cure is something that eliminates the problem, to begin with. Since no work so far has been done to assess the link between causes of dementia and Cannabis, to make a sweeping statement that Cannabis cures the disease would be wrong.
Additionally, each of the studies discussed and other those who have been carried out mostly involve certain components of Cannabis and not the entire element. Therefore, even if one component (like CBD) does play a role in minimizing the risk of dementia, one cannot conclude that Cannabis overall will have the same effect.
This is because one cannot be certain whether the different elements of Cannabis may interact with one another and underwhelm the benefit caused by the isolated component concerned. So, just because CBD oil helps with dementia doesn’t translate to Cannabis curing dementia.
Additionally, there are quite a few different strains of Cannabis available. These strains have different levels of CBD oil and THC in them.
Recent Dementia Research
Just because a definite link between dementia and Cannabis has not been found doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.
This is why King’s College London recently announced that it would conduct an experimental treatment using Cannabis. This is the first major UK trial which will make use of the drug to treat dementia symptoms.
As part of the research, sixty patients who have clear dementia symptoms will be selected. Some of them will be treated with Cannabis, while others will be given a placebo to remove any biases. Patients selected will be within the age of 55 to 90-year-olds.
If this study is successful, it will unveil a lot to the healthcare sector about the potential of Cannabis. Many states of the US are also looking into the laws relating to the cannabis legalization.
While it is true that cannabis use has now been allowed in various parts of the countries, the fact remains that most people still don’t think it has the potential to be a medicinal drug. It is true that it may not cure dementia.
But, the evidence does point to the fact that it may have the potential to slow down the onset of symptoms. This may not sound much to a healthy person. But, to someone losing their self at an accelerated pace, even this can make all the difference.
Guest post by Alycia Gordan
Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia