Medical marijuana can help many aliments – but does work with dementia?
Nothing is more heartbreaking than watching someone we love suffer from dementia. While the face is the same, the mind and essence behind it slowly fades away. More than 8 million people had dementia in 2020. If current demographic and health trends continue, more than 10 million Canadians and Americans could have dementia by 2030 and nearly 12 million by 2040.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are different. Dementia is a general term used to describe symptoms that impact memory, performance of daily activities, and communication abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease gets worse with time and affects memory, language, body functions and thought.
Is medical marijuana helpful with this horrible disease? Can it provide help to the patient and be an additional tool for the caregiver?
So far, medical marijuana is not a breakthrough for dementia. Little research has been done or shown that is makes a major different in the progression of the disease. But there are glimmers of hope in managing some of the more difficult symptoms.
Dementia can affect a person’s personality and habits, which may lead to changes in behavior. They may become more anxious, aggressive, and confused. A few clinical trials have identified that medical marijuana can help manage behavioural symptoms in people with dementia, including agitation and aggression, but only in some cases.
There is also potential help with sundowning. Restlessness, agitation, irritability, or confusion can begin or worsen as daylight begins to fade, often just when tired caregivers need a break. Sundowning can continue into the night, making it hard for people with Alzheimer’s to fall asleep and stay in bed. Medical marijuana and cbd can be used to help with sleep and fighting insomnia.
A recent study also shows cannabis may be helpful in treating vascular dementia, which is a neurodegenerative disorder that often occurs along with Alzheimers. Vascular dementia is characterized by a lack of adequate blood flow to the brain, which leads to the death of cells. By activating the brain’s CB2 cannabinoid receptors, it may be possible to recover blood flow to the brain for a period of time.
Some research has shown low doses of THC can help restore some memory and learning levels in mice. The changes resulted from administering low doses of THC occurred because they affected the hippocampus. However, there is currently no research that studies this possible link between marijuana and dementia in humans.
The brain is a complex mystery and more research is being to understand how it functions. Organizations like the Allen Institue, are committed to unlocking the mysteries and possiblities of the brain.
A bit of caution about heavy marijuana habits. A study from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that marijuana users, when compared to non-marijuana users, had low blood flow in the hippocampus. The belief is that chronic marijuana use may block activity in this part of the brain, and it may damage areas of the brain that are pivotal to learning and memory.