Dementia is not a single specific condition. Instead, it is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of symptoms such as memory loss and a decline in problem-solving skills. Such changes are often minor at the beginning, but over time, they get so severe that the afflicted individual struggles to cope with everyday life. In most cases, a person with dementia will experience changes in behavior or mood.
The primary cause of dementia is brain cell damage. The brain cells lose their ability to communicate with one another and the result is affected feelings, behavior, and a disruption in normal thought patterns. The brain has several distinct regions, and each one is responsible for a variety of functions such as movement, judgment and memory. Once the cells in a section of the brain are damaged, that area of the brain can’t conduct its normal functions.
Different forms of dementia are associated with specific regions of the brain. For instance, Alzheimer’s patients have excessive levels of proteins both inside and outside of their brain cells, making it difficult for brain cells to remain healthy and continue communicating properly. As a result, memory loss is one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s.
While the New York Times suggested that five million Americans were living with dementia in 2016, the Alzheimer’s Association claims that 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s alone. Up to one third of seniors die with a form of dementia, while early and accurate diagnosis could save almost $8 trillion in medical and care costs.
It is a debilitating condition and it is heartbreaking to see a loved one afflicted. This is why CBD is being used by some, as they it will help to treat people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
A study* led by Professor David Schubert of the Salk Institute in California, published in the Journal of Neurochemistry in 2017, found that CBD and THC could help remove dangerous, dementia-causing proteins from the brain. In the study, the research team used a small dose of synthetically produced cannabinoids. The result was the removal of a toxic plaque associated with dementia.
Known as amyloid beta, this protein creates a dangerous plaque in the brain which destroys brain cells. It is believed that amyloid beta accumulates in the walls of the brain cells before Alzheimer’s symptoms become apparent. Schubert spoke of his frustration with the existing marijuana laws. He said: “It’s blatantly obvious that this plant should be studied in greater detail.”
Another study*, led by Andreas Zimmer of the University of Bonn, looked at weed’s potential to improve the memory and learning capabilities of older mice. It was published in Nature Medicine in 2017 and involved the use of THC. The team found that small doses improved the learning skills and memory of the mice. One wonders if CBD will have a similar effect.
Back in 2004, a study* by Iuvone et al, published in the Journal of Neurochemistry, found that cannabidiol offered a neuroprotective effect. The team looked at the effects of CBD on beta-amyloid peptide-induced toxicity in cultured rat cells. When the cells were exposed to beta-amyloid peptide, a significant reduction in cell survival was recorded. When the cells were treated with CBD, cell survival was “significantly elevated.”
For patients with dementia, it is a long and lonely road ahead. The symptoms of dementia slowly but surely lead to deleterious effects on memory and mood and make it difficult to perform daily tasks. Recent research into the impact of CBD on the symptoms of dementia conditions such as Alzheimer’s offer a chink of light. While the psychoactive compound, THC, could potentially remove amyloid clumps in the brain – which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s – CBD is possibly capable of a similar effect.