Alzheimer’s disease affects more than five million people in the United States alone. This disease is usually devastating to the people who have it as well as their loved ones. While Alzheimer’s disease is incurable, recent discoveries about marijuana’s effect on the brain have given patients and their families some hope for the future. Keep reading to learn about the link between Alzheimer’s and cannabis.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease, meaning it affects the neurons in the brain. A healthy person’s brain can produce new neurons to replace old or damaged ones, but the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s can no longer do this. Their neurons become damaged and die off, causing problems with memory and severely diminishing the person’s quality of life. Alzheimer’s disease is not fully understood yet, and researchers are still working to find out why some people get it and others don’t.
Alzheimer’s disease usually occurs in people who are over the age of 65, although occasionally younger people will develop early-onset Alzheimer’s as well. Though the disease is associated with aging, it is not considered normal. Typical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include being unable to remember new information, having trouble recognizing familiar people and places, having difficulty finding the right word, and, eventually, being unable to live independently.
How Alzheimer’s Disease Is Currently Treated
There is currently no Alzheimer’s treatment that cures or reverses the condition. However, there are a number of pharmaceutical drugs on the market that can help relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Donepezil, galantamine, and memantine are several of the drugs that are commonly used to treat Alzheimer’s. These drugs don’t work for everyone, though, and some people find that they only work for a little while before becoming ineffective.
Researchers are currently trying to find more effective treatments for Alzheimer’s. Physical therapy may be able to help with some symptoms, and more sophisticated drugs are still under development. However, in light of the new findings of cannabis for Alzheimer’s, a better treatment may be closer than people realize.
The Health Benefits of Medical Marijuana
In people who use medical marijuana Alzheimer’s and other diseases may be less likely to develop. Why? As the use of medical cannabis has become more widespread, scientists have discovered new and intriguing properties about marijuana’s effect on the brain that could make it an effective treatment for many different conditions, not just Alzheimer’s disease.
People have known for thousands of years that cannabis is a potent pain reliever – in fact, one of its first common uses was as a treatment for chronic pain. Cannabis can also relieve anxiety and promote a sense of general well-being. In recent years, people have also discovered that medical marijuana can treat epilepsy, including certain severe types of childhood epilepsy that were previously considered incurable. These examples are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to medical marijuana’s therapeutic properties – it has been suggested that cannabis may be able to treat conditions as diverse as cancer, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and migraines. Thus, it comes as no surprise that this herb shows promise for treating Alzheimer’s disease, too.
Medical Marijuana as an Alzheimer’s Treatment
Studies about Alzheimer’s and cannabis are still underway, but so far, the existing research shows a promising link between cannabis use and lower rates of Alzheimer’s. Scientists have found that in the presence of chemical compounds from marijuana Alzheimer’s disease progresses more slowly. There are a couple of possible reasons for this.
First, the chemical compounds present in marijuana may be able to neutralize the toxins that contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. A 2016 study at the Salk Institute found that cannabinoids, which are the active ingredients in cannabis, help to get rid of amyloid beta proteins, which cause the characteristic cell damage of Alzheimer’s in the brain.
Research from Ohio State University has also found that medical marijuana may lessen the damage of Alzheimer’s disease by causing new neurons to grow in the brain. This process, known as neurogenesis, could help to mitigate some of the memory-related problems caused by Alzheimer’s.
There’s a great deal we still have to learn about cannabis for Alzheimer’s disease, but the current research indicates that medical marijuana may be one of the best treatment options we have available today. As more studies are conducted and medical marijuana becomes more accepted by mainstream medicine, doctors and Alzheimer’s patients will gain a better understanding of how cannabis can help relieve the symptoms of this disease.
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