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By Dr. Craig Hauser, Kannavis Medical Director

Quick fact: Weed is no longer reserved for hippies and curious folks who are looking to get stoned.

If you’ve been keeping a pulse on medical cannabis news lately, you’ve probably heard or read about the role of cannabis in helping people with various health issues. These include pain management, anxiety, spasticity, epilepsy, and even PTSD among veterans who just returned from war combat zones.

And then there’s Alzheimer’s Disease — a form of dementia affecting more than five million Americans and one of the leading causes of death among seniors. With its incidence expected to triple during the next 50 years, finding a cure is incredibly important. Turning to cannabis is a good start.

Currently, there are studies indicating that certain cannabis compounds are capable of reversing the underlying processes that cause the signs and symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

All You Need is Probably Some THC

While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s Disease among aging adults is still unknown, what scientists know so far is that those with the condition have a buildup of plaques in their brain. These plaques are specific types of proteins called amyloid beta.

The unwanted accumulation of these plaques over time blocks communication between the brain’s nerve cells. As a result, the nerve cells become inflamed, the brain degenerates gradually, and the brain stops working properly.

The good news is that THC ( tetrahydrocannabinol) in cannabis is likely to save the day!

Cannabis to Improve Lives of People With Dementia

As the most highly studied type of cannabis compounds, research findings reveal that THC mimics the brain’s marijuana-like molecules (called endogenous cannabinoids), and activates specific receptors in the brain capable of modulating neural activity.

A 2008 study published in Molecular Pharmaceutics discovered that THC slowed down the proliferation of amyloid beta plaques. In 2014, a study that appeared in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease had the same discovery.

Finally, a study published in Aging and Mechanisms of Disease June 2016 issue revealed that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the inflamed nerve cells from dying. The inflammation was a response to amyloid beta plaques.

It’s also worth noting that researchers at Ohio State University have concluded that cannabis may actually help preserve memory.

The Takeaway

In a nutshell, the jury is still out. The use of THC-like compounds in cannabis as a therapy to help slow down aging and dementia will benefit from further testing in clinical trials. Certain factors such as dosing and the cannabis strains could impact efficacy in helping prevent or treat dementia.

Regardless, it’s fair to say that cannabis is turning out to be about more than just getting high. In 2018, more doctors and patients will surely talk about medicinal cannabis and its role in slowing down brain aging.

Are you looking for a dispensary in Maryland to talk to about marijuana and how we can fight dementia together? Send us a quick message to learn more.