Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Alzheimer’s Association. An estimated 16 million Americans are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, both of which can take a significant toll on patients and their loved ones.
Can marijuana help patients with Alzheimer’s disease? Although research into marijuana and brain disorders is still limited, promising evidence suggests that cannabis can help treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Read on to learn how Alzheimer’s disease impacts the brain, common symptoms of the disease and how marijuana may help with symptom relief and slowing the disease’s progression.
Alzheimer’s Disease and the Brain
Alzheimer’s disease changes the brain significantly, leading to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. Plaques and tangles are the two primary culprits when it comes to cell death and tissue loss in Alzheimer’s patients.
- Plaques—Plaques are abnormal clusters of protein that build up between nerve cells. These plaques form from beta-amyloid, part of a protein that tends to clump together. As they clump, they stop communication between cells, and they may also activate the immune system in ways that trigger inflammation.
- Tangles—Tangles destroy the cell transport system. This system is typically comprised of orderly, parallel strands, and a protein called tau helps keep things in line. With Alzheimer’s disease, tau collapses and the strands tangle. Cells no longer receive essential nutrients, and they die.
Alzheimer’s disease, like many brain disorders, progresses slowly over time. The rate of progression varies by individual and whether there are any other health conditions present.
Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms
Since Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, symptoms worsen over time. Common symptoms include:
- Memory loss.
- Difficulty concentrating and reasoning.
- Changes in personality and behavior, which may include:
- Mood swings.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Loss of inhibitions.
- Loss of appetite or changes in appetite.
These symptoms are distressing both for the patient and their caregivers. Marijuana can help alleviate many symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and it may also help slow the progression of the disease itself.
How Medical Marijuana Helps With Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms
Medical marijuana is a powerful tool for alleviating many Alzheimer’s symptoms. Marijuana can:
- Stimulate appetite.
- Improve insomnia.
- Alleviate depression and anxiety.
There is also promising preclinical research showing that medical marijuana may help reduce agitation, aggression and irritability.
As with any medication, each person will react differently to marijuana, so it is critical to work closely with an experienced medical marijuana physician such as Dr. Daniel P. Stein at Neurology of Cannabis.
Can Medical Marijuana Slow the Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease?
There is ample research to support medical marijuana’s ability to alleviate many common Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, but can it slow the progress of the disease itself? Initial research in this area is promising.
One preclinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease showed that THC, one of the main compounds in marijuana, can slow the production of beta-amyloid, which contributes to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Another preliminary study from the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, also found that THC reduces beta-amyloid proteins.
THC and CBD, another primary chemical compound in marijuana, are also known anti-inflammatories. As brain inflammation may contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, reducing inflammation could help slow the progression of the disease.
Finding Expert Advice for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease
Sorting through all the information out there about marijuana and brain disorders can be difficult. The Sacred Plant YouTube channel offers a helpful in-depth video series that covers the benefits of marijuana. The best advice, though, will come from an experienced medical marijuana doctor with a background in neurology, like Dr. Stein at Neurology of Cannabis.
Dr. Stein has more than 25 years of practice experience. He is board certified and trained at the National Institute of Health in Immunology of Neuromuscular Disease, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Cleveland. His background and experience in neurology make him uniquely qualified to work with Alzheimer’s patients and their families.
Dr. Stein takes a personal approach with his patients, getting to know their backgrounds, medical history and lifestyle needs. When you visit Dr. Stein, you will be seen in a professional office environment with a warm and friendly staff.
If you or a loved one is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, take the time to meet with Dr. Stein for a personalized medical marijuana recommendation. Make an appointment today!