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  • Writer's pictureRandy Shaffer

Marijuana May Help Prevent Alzheimer's

If you've ever known anyone who has suffered from Alzheimer's, you know the kind of toll it can take on friends and family, to say nothing of the tremendous toll is takes on the individual suffering from the horrid disease. Full disclosure: my father suffers from Alzheimer's. Some days, he says some of the most profound things. He's funny, witty, loving and undeniably charming. Other days, he can't remember his family. He gets angry and scared, acting like a child. On these days, he is longer himself. He is the disease.

Even worse than memory loss is sundowning, a nasty side effect of Alzheimer's that renders a patient aggressive, even violent in some cases, usually after the sun goes down, or right at dusk. In the case of my father, it renders him akin to a wounded animal. He wakes up in the middle of the night, unaware of who or where is is. He is all aggression, fear and fire, with no real bite. It's embarrassing to watch him act this way. And often it yields quite a few tears.

Naturally, any news of Alzheimer's advancements are near and dear to my heart, which makes this recent study, published in Science Daily, rather exciting!

Curing or Preventing Alzheimer's

In the study, conducted by the Salk Institute, scientists were able to determine that the active chemical cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC), was key to removing toxic clumps of the amyloid beta protein. This protein is responsible for rapidly breaking down memory cells, leading to Alzheimer's.

David Schubert hails from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California. His laboratory has been studying the effects for quite some time. "Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer's," Schubert stated, "we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells."

This study was not only able to determine that THC benefited the brain, but how exactly it goes about doing it. "Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer's disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves," says Antonio Currais, a postdoctoral researcher in Schubert's laboratory and first author of the paper. "When we were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to amyloid beta, it became clear that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the cells from dying."

How Does THC Help?

How THC does this is by bonding with our own body's cannabinoid receptors, found all throughout our cells. Cannabis curiously interacts with human cannabinoid receptors, possibly serving as an evolutionary tool for us. In some cases, cannabis use may make one feel euphoric. Or one may feel relaxed, anxious, happy or you may even feel pain relief or sleepiness, if you suffer from insomnia.

What's happening when you feel those effects is that your brain is reacting to the THC, CBD and other cannabinoids that make up cannabis. Each of these chemicals bond and react with the CB receptors in our brains, resulting in a differing head space for the person using cannabis. In most cases, the resulting head space is a positive experience for the user, but in some cases, the CB receptors still communicate with the chemical compounds, but a less than desired effect is yielded. This can often be based on improper use of a strain, high potency or less-than-stellar cultivation methods.

When THC bonds with CB receptors, it also appears to clear or clean off deadly plaques known as amyloid beta proteins that build up over time and eventually cause irreversible lesions all over the brain. These lesions are what cause cells to break down, leading to significant memory loss and a possible loss of total brain function over time.

As a result, cannabis use may be used to eventually treat or prevent the progression of Alzheimer's. Naturally, such a treatment probably wouldn't involve smoking cannabis, but taking tinctures targeted to help fuel the prevention of Alzheimer's. At this time, more research needs to be conducted, but this new study is a giant leap in the right direction.

Can Medical Marijuana Help Alzheimer's Patients?

Ohioans can now obtain a medical marijuana card thanks to HB 523, which was passed in the fall of 2016. Alzheimer's is one of the 21 medical conditions approved for medical marijuana use. Patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's can see significant improvement in their mood with strains that produce a mellow, relaxed state, with just a dash of euphoria, but not so much a patient succumbs to anxiety.

In the case of sundowning and marijuana, patients could see improvement eating an edible roughly 2-3 hours before dusk. This may help in calming the nervous anxiety that brews when an Alzheimer's patient become weary of their surroundings. Medical marijuana can be used throughout the day to help enhance the mood of an Alzheimer's patient as well. Many of those suffering from the disease are also suffering from an almost incalculable depression. Thankfully, mmj can treat both!

If you are suffering from Alzheimer's, or you know someone who is, we at Ohio Marijuana Card can help you get some relief. Feel free to call us at 1-866-457-5559 and our friendly support team will walk you through the process of obtaining a card. Additionally, we can help you learn how to become an Ohio medical marijuana licensed caregiver if you are already a caregiver for an Alzheimer's patient. You can also visit us online by clicking here. Alzheimer's is not an easy illness to battle, and there is no success. But medical marijuana can help ease the burden, and reduce to emotional toll the disease can take.


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