Marijuana could be used to treat Alzheimer’s and alleviate symptoms from the disease as it’s becoming a controversial topic in the medical community. Some well-respected doctors are advocating for its use and others concerned about its addictive properties and long term effects.
A preclinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that very small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical found in marijuana, can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins, thought to be a hallmark characteristic and key contributor to the progression of Alzheimer’s.
The study, published in 2014, is among others to support the effectiveness of THC in prohibiting the growth of toxic amyloid plagues.
Co-author of the study, Neel Nabar, cautions against drawing quick conclusions from their study saying, “It’s important to keep in mind that just because a drug may be effective doesn’t mean it can be safely used by anyone. However, these findings may lead to the development of related compounds that are safe, legal, and useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”
While researchers have seen some success in using medical marijuana to fight the formation of beta amyloid plaques, studies are showing differing results in using it to treat the disease.
A research team from Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, Netherlands, recently investigated the effects of medical marijuana on symptoms of dementia including aggression, anxiety, depression, insomnia and hallucinations, and did not see a statistically significance difference when using medical marijuana to treat symptoms associated with the disease.
The team divided their 50 participants into two groups with one group receiving 1.5 mg of medical marijuana pills and the other receiving a placebo pill. Participants took the pill three times a day for three weeks. After comparing the behavioral symptoms of both groups, researchers found there was no difference in the two groups.
Contrarily, a recent study published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has concluded that cannabis extract containing THC can relieve these symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Researchers from the Abarbanel Mental Health Center and the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel-Aviv University along with the Department of Psychology at Bar-Ilan University conducted the study, which was one of the first clinical studies observing the effects of cannabis on Alzheimer’s.
The study observed the effects of medical marijuana on 11 people living with Alzheimer’s over the course of 4 weeks. 10 participants finished the trial. Despite the small size of the study, researchers concluded that adding “medical cannabis oil to Alzheimer’s patients’ pharmacotherapy is a safe and promising treatment option.”
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two medical marijuana medications in pill form, “dronabinol” and “nabilone.” These two drugs are being used to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and increase the appetites of people with AIDS.
However, because of its addictive properties and unknown long term effects, its usage today is controversial in the medical community. While medical marijuana has been shown to reduce nausea in people undergoing chemotherapy and help people living with HIV/AIDS some medical professionals are wary of using it as a treatment method.
However, several organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine, have issued statements opposing its usage for medical treatment purposes.