Dementia is the umbrella term used for a chronic persistent disorder associated with a loss of memory and cognitive abilities; symptoms associated with the various disorders become serious enough that they interfere with daily tasks. Alzheimer’s is just one such disorder, and it is the leading cause of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of cases. This disease is associated with old age, an irreversible progressive disease that destroys memory and thinking skills. Early-onset Alzheimer’s can occur between a person’s 30s and mid-60s.
Those with early onset Alzheimer’s will first find that they have trouble remembering things; as they may suffer from slowed thinking and reasoning. As this disease progresses, individuals will find their memory becomes worse and that they may also have difficulties with:
- Remembering newly learned information: repetitive questions/ conversations; misplacing belongings; forgetting appointments; getting lost.
- Language problems: forgetting common words; reading, writing and speaking errors.
- Unpredictable behavior: loss of empathy; mood changes such as agitation, loss of interest or motivation; obsessive behaviors.
- Impaired visuospatial abilities: unable to recognize faces or objects.
Cannabis is widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This property is just one of the benefits that cannabis can offer to those suffering from dementia. Inflammation surrounding the toxic plaque buildup within the brain is thought to be one of the causes of Alzheimer’s. Cannabinoids bind to receptors in the brain and decrease the inflammation within these areas and thus slow the progression of the disease. Other studies have found that small doses of THC slow the development of certain proteins also thought to contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Limited studies have found that CBD can prevent cell death which occurs slowly over time with Alzheimer’s. It has neuroprotective, anti-oxidative, and anti-apoptotic properties. For those suffering from psychiatric symptoms, CBD is a better alleyway as it is used to treat anxiety and various other psychological disorders without having any noticeable psychoactive effect itself, whereas THC could exacerbate these symptoms.
The most promising use for cannabis is for the alleviation of various symptoms associated with dementia as well as the promotion of positive things such as appetite stimulation, weight control, motor function, and mood regulation.
Both THC and CBD can be used to treat Alzheimer’s. Though THC does produce temporary psychoactive effects, low doses have shown promise in slowing the progression of dementia. THC microdosing can be administered through inhalation, edibles, oils, tinctures, and even teas. The dosage will depend on the progression of the disease. Always start small and work your way up. Various terpenes work in an entourage effect with the cannabinoids and have beneficial effects as well. Search for strains high in pinene, as this terpene has an effect on memory retention.
For those with more serious psychiatric symptoms, CBD allows for treatment of dementia symptoms without the “high” effect or risk of paranoia associated with THC. CBD can be taken similarly to THC through smoking, edibles, oils, and tinctures.
When combining treatments with CBD, THC, terpenes, and other cannabinoids, we see the entourage effect occur where all the terpenoids and cannabinoids work together to provide a full range of therapeutic benefits.