Can Cannabis Help with Alzheimer's?

Stephen Andrews
05 Apr 2023

Clinical trials have found that medical cannabis can help manage behavioral symptoms in people with dementia, such as agitation and aggression, however, only in some cases. Most of the medical research in this area is inconclusive.

Considering Alzheimer's devastating effects, people are understandably curious to know more if cannabis can offer some relief and improve the quality of life in people who suffer from this disease. 

Unfortunately, there is no scientific confirmation thus far that cannabis products like CBD oil can help stop, prevent, or at least slow down any form of dementia. While there is some ongoing research, we still don't know the long-term effects of taking cannabis and whether this is an effective and safe way to control dementia symptoms. 

Alzheimer's disease and other related forms of dementia present with several different symptoms, including cognitive decline, loss of memory, and behavioral disorders. Scientists are aware of the neuroprotective qualities of cannabis and hope they can use these properties of the plant to medicate those who live with dementia and Alzheimer's. The holy grail of research in this direction would be to find if and how cannabis can repair brain damage caused by dementia. 

Alzheimer's causes a buildup of protein plaque in the brain, a protein called amyloid. What gives hope is that some studies have found that some cannabis components, including THC, appear to remove this protein from lab-grown nerve cells.

Another study that gave combination of THC and CBD oil to mice with symptoms of Alzheimer's showed improvements in cognitive ability and less evidence of amyloid clumps in their bodies. Lab research has also hinted at memory improvements, especially with THC dosing. 

Research has recently extended to human trials, including one developed by King's College in London that's looking at whether Sativex, a mouth spray containing cannabinoids, can be used to counteract symptoms of agitation and aggression in a small group of Alzheimer's disease patients. 

"Currently there is a scarcity of pharmacological treatments out there and some of them are damaging or dangerous, especially in the long-term. We're looking for a safer and more effective alternative," says lead researcher, Chris Albertyn in a BrainTalk for Being Patient, a portal for Alzheimer's news, stories, and support. 

High concentrations of CBD oil could be more helpful in managing dementia symptoms such as agitation and anxiety. Then there are other known properties of components like CBD. Cannabidiol can boost blood flow to the brain and can help with inflammation. 

Nevertheless, research for Alzheimer's and dementia is only at a starting phase. It's an emerging science, and there's a need for future studies that will encompass more significant groups of people and look at the long-term effects of cannabis medications. 

In sum, we still have much to learn about the benefits and risks of cannabis-derived products for dementia. Choosing cannabis medicines to treat Alzheimer's and dementia symptoms should not be considered without a doctor's consent and consultation. 

Stephen Andrews