Cannabis and Alzheimer’s Disease
According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2016 Medical Marijuana Facts and Figures, over 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. The disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, more than breast and prostate cancer combined. And the cost—Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost America $236 billion dollars in 2016 alone.
Conventional medical treatments for Alzheimer’s lessen and provide relief from symptoms such as confusion and memory loss, but they do not cure or stop the disease from progressing. Alz.org reports that the U.S. FDA has approved two types of medications, cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, to treat the cognitive symptoms of the disease. In addition to these medications, cannabis shows great promise in treating the symptoms and possibly slowing the development Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2006, researchers from Departments of Chemistry, Immunology, and Molecular Biology, Molecular and Integrated Neurosciences Department, The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, and Worm Institute for Research and Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute in California published the following in Molecular Pharmacology:
“Here, we demonstrate that the active component of marijuana, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), competitively inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) as well as prevents AChE-induced amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) aggregation, the key pathological marker of Alzheimer’s disease. Computational modeling of the THC-AChE interaction revealed that THC binds in the peripheral anionic site of AChE, the critical region involved in amyloidgenesis. Compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is a considerably superior inhibitor of Aβ aggregation, and this study provides a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which cannabinoid molecules may directly impact the progression of this debilitating disease.”
Yes, you read it right. Ten years ago, these researchers demonstrated that THC was more effective in inhibiting key markers for Alzheimer’s disease than currently approved drugs.
More recently, Alzheimers.net reported on a preclinical study that was published in 2014 (pages 973-984, Volume 42, Number 3) in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. That study supported the effectiveness of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in prohibiting the growth of beta-amyloid proteins, which are thought to be key contributors in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s. While this is potentially good news, the study’s authors were clear: More study is needed.
Many other researchers agree that cannabis has the potential to improve patients’ quality of life and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. No need to take our word for it; take a look for yourself. Type “Cannabis and Alzheimer’s” into Google’s search bar and give yourself some time, you’ll need it to read through the results, over 500,000 of them.
So we say it again. Whole plant cannabis, as well as isolated cannabis chemicals, shows great promise in the ability to manage and treat Alzheimer’s as well as many other modern diseases. We agree with the group of U.S. senators who wrote to multiple food and drug officials in 2015 and asked them to reclassify cannabis and facilitate research into the plant’s medical benefits. It’s time to reschedule cannabis and encourage medical researchers to do what they do best: develop and carry out pre-clinical and clinical studies that will give us new information that can be used to develop treatments that will help manage and possibly even prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s with a Las Vegas Nevada Medical Marijuana Dispensary.