With the spread of medical marijuana throughout North America, the scientific evidence of its medical value is becoming more compelling as research is done. One of the newest studies that has peaked my interest concerns people with dementia disorders. As dementia has personally touched those in my family, this new study about the effects of cannabis on dementia made me want to find out more.
Regardless of your views on recreational marijuana, it is hard to disregard the growing evidence supporting marijuana when used medically. With no cure for dementia, these new studies offer hope to those suffering from cognitive decline associated with dementia.
After doing some research into the study, I found some extremely interesting facts outlined by scientists about something called the “endocannabinoid system.” Although not many people have even heard of the endocannabinoid system, it turns out that it may be the most widespread receptor in the body.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
There are cannabinoid receptors in the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, immune system, and more. The fact that your body is full of cannabinoid receptors is why there’s such enormous medical potential for cannabis.
The key lies in the way marijuana works in the body. Both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when cannabis activates a cannabinoid receptor.
There are two cannabinoids (chemical compounds) found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These both interact with the body by activating a naturally occurring cannabinoid receptor embedded in cell membranes throughout your body.
So how does this help with dementia?
The Effects of Cannabis on Dementia
The new hope for dementia patients lies in recent animal testing and the beneficial influence that cannabis has on the aging brain. THC appears to help reverse the aging of the brain and improve mental processes by reacting with the endocannabinoid system. This new study raises the possibility that it might be useful for the treatment of dementia in the elderly.
The test involved giving mice a small daily dose of THC over the course of one month at the ages of two months, 12 months, and 18 months. Mice typically have a lifespan of two years. The dose was small enough to avoid any psychoactive effects.
The study tested the animals’ learning, orientation, memory, and recognition skills. The results showed that 18-month-old mice given THC demonstrated cognitive skills equal to the mice in the control group of two-month-olds. The placebo group, however, suffered from cognitive deterioration associated with natural aging.
Researchers found that these changes appeared to affect the activity of certain genes in the hippocampus, an area of the brain important for memory and learning.
What This Means for Your Brain Health
Dementia symptoms can include memory loss, difficulty with problem solving, and behavioral changes such as a shift in temperament or mood, but the condition can affect people in very different ways. There is no cure for dementia and doctors still don’t know everything about the disorder, but this study may bring scientists a step closer to finding a cure.
Although there is no evidence yet that THC has the same effect on people as it does mice, this study does offer some hope to those suffering from dementia. It also opens up discussion on the possibilities of using cannabis to treat other medical conditions.
The more we know about medical marijuana and how it can help with illness and disease, the more we may be able to naturally heal ourselves without prescription medications with horrible side effects. So, I am all for further testing of medical marijuana and hopefully finding a cure for those with dementia.
“Cannabis for the treatment or prevention of dementia,” Alzheimer’s Society; https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20074/alternative_therapies/488/cannabis_for_the_treatment_or_prevention_of_dementia, last accessed July 19, 2017.
Lerche, O., “Future dementia cure – Chemical in cannabis could REVERSE the ageing process,” Express, May 8, 2017; http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/801827/dementia-cure-cannabis-THC-chemical-memory, last accessed July 19, 2017.
Ellison, J.M., “Medical Marijuana and Dementia-Associated Agitation: Stirring the Pot,” Psychiatric Times, January 26, 2017; http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/psychopharmacology/medical-marijuana-and-dementia-associated-agitation-stirring-pot, last accessed July 19, 2017.