As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a disease brought on by aging that affects memory and intellectual abilities of older adults and seniors. Alzheimer’s alone stands for up to 80% of all dementia cases according to the Alzheimer’s Association. With continuous progression of the disease, there is currently no cure to Alzheimer’s. Treatment and prevention for the disease is constantly being researched, but recently scientist have paid extra close attention to the effects of marijuana on the brain of senior patients with Alzheimer’s disease. With promising signs of improvement, marijuana may be the next best thing, possibly the cure to Alzheimer’s.
• Marijuana being used to treat Alzheimer’s
THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol is what gives the psychoactive effects to the brain, controlling mood, behavior, perception and consciousness. THC is extracted from unprocessed marijuana, but our body naturally produces THC-like chemicals called endocannabinoids. When THC enters the body, it attaches itself to these naturally produced cannabinoids as they are traveling to the brain. The brain reacts to these receptors just as they do to the naturally producing receptors.
THC is used to treat cognitive conditions, especially that of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers.net explains how THC slows down the production of beta-amyloid proteins, a toxic plaque on the brain known to contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and the neurodegenerative causes. THC is also said to eliminate neuro-inflammation, inflammation in the nervous tissue that cause major damage to the neurons in the brain.
Aside from dementia, senior citizens suffering from other conditions such as nerve damage or diabetes can also find relief from taking medical marijuana. By helping to better manage the pain, it lessens the need for opioids. Considering seniors over the age of 65 account for approximately 15% of the population, seniors also account for over 30% of all prescription drugs.
• The Argument that Marijuana Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?
A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that people with a marijuana use disorder, had reduced blood flow in almost every area of the brain, compared to controls who didn’t use marijuana.
The research showed the hippo-campus area of the brain had the biggest reduction in blood flow because of marijuana. The hippo-campus is the part of our brain associated with memory and learning, and in people who have Alzheimer’s, it’s the first area of the brain that’s affected.
When you use marijuana, and it reduces blood flow to the brain, it reduces the amount of oxygen that can reach brain cells, which can result in damage to the tissues.
Researchers believe that marijuana also blocks activity in the brain which prevents the formation of memories.
The results of this study don’t show definitively that marijuana can cause Alzheimer’s, and most of the medical evidence from blind studies have shown that it is a treatment.
Maybe someday a long term study might prove a link between marijuana use and early onset Alzheimer’s disease but the disease is just as prevalent in the non-tokers as those who use marijuana often, so it’s not looking good for those who look to villainize Cannabis.