The Alzheimer’s Association defines dementia as a “general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia.”
Dementia is a very broad term used to cover a wide range of medical conditions, like Alzheimer's disease. These disorders are caused by abnormal changes in the brain. These changes cause a decline in cognitive abilities that interfere with daily life and the ability to function independently. In addition to memory, dementia may also affect mood, behaviors, and relationships as well.
Although there is no cure for dementia diseases like Alzheimer’s, there are various treatments that may help manage some of the symptoms associated with the disease. One potential treatment option that is currently being studied is cannabis. Keep reading to learn how cannabis may potentially help dementia patients.
The Research on Cannabis for Dementia Symptoms Treatment
Currently, there is limited evidence on cannabis in the management of symptoms in dementia. A few research studies have been done, but most of them were small, with only a limited number of participants. Because of the smaller number of patients enrolled, there’s a limit on the study design and the amount of information that can be obtained.
A recent article in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry talks about the potential for cannabis to provide therapeutic effects in regards to Alzheimer's disease. This 2021 study focuses on the impact of cannabinoids on factors of agitation related to Alzheimer’s dementia.
Cannabis for the Management of Agitation
Agitation is, unfortunately, a common symptom of Alzheimer’s. Many patients experience irritability and frustration, possibly because of the volume loss in many critical areas of the brain, including the amygdala, frontal cortex, insula, and more. This agitation may also be caused by a disrupted circadian rhythm and frailty as well.
The study says “there is increasing interest in cannabinoids as promising agents due to preclinical and early clinical research that suggest cannabinoids can elicit anxiolytic, antidepressant, and/or anti-inflammatory effects.”
This means that because cannabinoids may decrease anxiety and depression, and because they’re known to have anti-inflammatory properties, they may help manage some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
The researchers found that cannabinoids like CBD and THC may relieve agitation by
· improving circadian rhythms
· regulating neurotransmitters
· and increasing circulation in the brain
Plus, thanks to the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids like CBD, cannabis treatments may also reduce inflammation in the brain.
Both CBD and THC affect the body through their interaction with the endocannabinoid system, specifically the CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the body. This interaction may help with the management of pain, anxiety, and even insomnia. These cannabinoids may decrease circadian rhythm disturbances as well. Overall, they may help to minimize some of the symptoms dementia patients have, resulting in increased quality of life.
Ultimately, more research must be done before we have a better picture of exactly how cannabis helps manage symptoms of dementia. Although the studies that have been completed show very promising results, we still need to learn more before cannabis is considered an official treatment for dementia and its symptoms. As always, be sure to speak to your doctor before incorporating cannabis into your health routine.