Is marijuana an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease?

Medical marijuana is mainly used as a pain killer and in the United States it is regarded as a medical drug only in Colorado and Washington, D.C. In several states, including Arizona and Rhode Island, medical marijuana is approved for use in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and agitation.

Scientists from the University of South Florida revealed their findings in a recent research study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The results showed that a chemical found in marijuana, THC, may slow down or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s.

THC was shown to reduce the production of amyloid beta protein (a marker in early evidence for Alzheimer’s disease), in addition to preventing it from accumulating in abnormal amounts. The scientists in the study called THC a “natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor.”

Yet, despite these findings, scientists are far from a consensus, noting that the positive impact of low doses of THC didn’t rule out its toxicity and memory impairment.

Another study at Harvard Medical School reported that Alzheimer’s patients experienced significant decreases in agitation after marijuana treatment.

Though these improvements were noted, studies do point to potential side effects in some Alzheimer’s patients, including an increased amount of agitation and confusion.

Experts are cautious about the effectiveness of marijuana treatment for Alzheimer’s because of the potential negative effects marijuana has on the brain itself. Until further studies are done and solid determinations are made, researchers do not recommend marijuana as an effective treatment for agitated Alzheimer’s or dementia patients.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.