Treating Dementia Symptoms with Medical Marijuana

  • Can medical marijuana be used to treat dementia in Texas?

  • Is it effective at relieving any of the symptoms of dementia?

  • Causes and symptoms of dementia.

  • Drawbacks of conventional treatments.

  • How Texas residents suffering from dementia might find relief by getting medical marijuana. 

Dementia is now one of the qualifying conditions to get a medical marijuana card in Texas. This is great news for families of Texas patients suffering from the condition, many of whom are finding that medical marijuana can, indeed, lessen some of the symptoms of dementia.

Cannabinoid therapy might even slow the progression of the disease. And some researchers even believe that cannabis can delay the onset of dementia or prevent it altogether.

So, what is dementia, and how does medical marijuana work to reduce the debilitating symptoms of dementia? Let’s have a look.

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What is dementia?

The term “dementia” does not convey a singular disease. Dementia encompasses a number of symptoms, mainly: erratic behavior, communication problems, and the decline of cognition and memory.

Dementia generally manifests in a seemingly innocuous manner, and over time can rob the brain of any and all functions. In many cases, individuals need round the clock care. At this time, there are no medications to cure this insidious disease. 

The most common iteration is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s affects 60-80 percent of dementia patients. Recent statistics estimate that 5.8 million people in the U.S. are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Another statistic indicates a shocking 10 percent of individuals over the age of 65 suffer the ravages of this terrible condition, with that number potentially tripling over the next 50 years.

Forms of Dementia

Some other forms of dementia have much in common with Alzheimer’s, in that they cause gradual, irreversible degeneration of brain cells. Some other types of dementia are:

  • Young-onset dementia

  • Mild Cognitive Impairment

  • Vascular dementia

  • Mixed dementia

  • Frontotemporal dementia

  • Lewy body dementia

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

  • Down syndrome

In some rare instances, when dementia is the result of an already-existing issue, it can be reversed, if the prior condition is treated successfully. A bad reaction to some medications, for example, can cause temporary dementia. 

Some other factors that might induce temporary include alcoholism, hormonal imbalance, B12 deficiency, tumors, environmental toxins, depression, drug abuse, and extreme inflammation.

Symptoms of Dementia

Depending on the cause of dementia, the symptoms may vary and include:

  • Memory loss, such as asking questions repeatedly

  • Misplacing things, such as car keys or a wallet

  • Difficulty communicating, including forgetting words or using the wrong ones

  • Disorientation, such as getting lost on a familiar route

  • Personality changes, including irritability

  • Problems completing familiar tasks, such as cooking a meal

  • Psychological changes, including anxiety and depression

Sadly, no cure for dementia has been discovered. The drugs administered to patients often come with terrible side effects like vomiting, nausea, and insomnia.

Treating dementia with medical marijuana 

Research is uncovering the efficacy of cannabinoids (the active component in cannabis), in stimulating the growth of neural pathways and reducing inflammation in the brain. The studies indicate this phenomenon takes place even in cells ravaged by age or trauma. 

Medical marijuana may be key in preventing dementia, as inflammation of brain tissue seems to be the main culprit in multiple degenerative conditions. Scientists are currently researching the effects of cannabis on the brain, but early studies suggest promising results. 

Promising Scientific Evidence

There is some promising scientific evidence indicating the positive effects of medical marijuana and its ability to relieve some behavioral symptoms of dementia, including:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Aggression

  • Agitation

  • Rigidity 

CBD and other cannabinoid compounds may also alleviate these three common symptoms of dementia as well:

Cannabinoids reduce inflammation

Alzheimer’s symptoms appear to worsen with extreme inflammation. This response in turn allows amyloid plaques to accumulate. Studies show a reduction in inflammation when cannabinoids are administered to dementia patients.

Cannabinoids act as antioxidants

When oxygen levels are elevated in the brain, due to inflammation, it can induce dementia symptoms such as memory loss. Cannabis’ antioxidant properties may significantly lower oxygen stress.

Cannabinoids protect and repair brain cells

In some recent clinical trials, cannabinoids have shown an ability to prevent brain cell death in Alzheimer’s patients. The evidence in these trials also indicates some reversal in cognitive decline when patients are given cannabinoids.

A Neuroscience Study

Gary Wenk (Neuroscience Professor, Ohio State) has thoroughly investigated the correlation between cannabinoids and the reduction of Alzheimer’s-related brain inflammation in lab rats. His conclusion, after reviewing ineffective medications recommended by pharmaceutical companies, is that cannabis appears to consistently have the strongest anti-inflammatory effect in the brain.

Wenk also made a discovery when he surveyed elderly people who smoked cannabis in their youth, and he states “individuals who smoked marijuana in the ‘60s and ‘70s, who are now entering their 60s and 70s, are not getting Alzheimer’s at the rate they should be. 

A paper published in 2007 by Ohio State University claims that certain protocols that stimulate cannabinoid brain receptors “may provide clinical benefits in age-related diseases that are associated with brain inflammation, such as Alzheimer’s disease.” 

Studies on medical marijuana for dementia Laboratory studies

Researchers, in a comprehensive in vivo study, gave a THC/CBD formula to mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms. There was a marked decrease in amyloid plaques in their brains, and the rats showed improvement in their learning abilities.

One of the first studies involving cannabinoids indicated efficacy in the prevention of social recognition deficiency in lab mice with Alzheimer’s disease. The findings of this study may ”provide the first evidence that CBD may have potential as a preventative treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease with particular relevance for symptoms of social withdrawal and facial recognition.”

Another study provided evidence of CBD’s dramatic neuroprotective, anti-oxidative, and anti-inflammatory properties. The researchers were highly optimistic regarding CBD’s ability to reverse the cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Clinical studies

Very few studies on cannabis and Alzheimer’s have been conducted in a clinical setting, and the ones that were carried out were very small.

In one observational study out of Geneva, a THC/CBD protocol was introduced to some nursing home patients affected by dementia. Ten female subjects with severe behavioral issues were selected. 

The participants were administered an oral medication of 7.6 mg THC/13.2 mg CBD on a daily basis for two weeks. For the following month they were given 8.8mg THC and 17.6 mg CBD, followed by two months of 9.0 mg THC and 18.0mg CBD. 

At the conclusion, the THC/CBD oil was preferred. 

Half of the patients in the study were either able to stop or reduce their psychotropic and opioid medications. There was also a reduction in the instances of opioid-related constipation. 

The overall effects of cannabis persisted for two months. It was concluded that the THC/CBD extract in higher dosages was beneficial, easily tolerated, and vastly improved multiple symptoms, making daily care much easier for the patients and the staff of the nursing home. 

Patients were monitored for up to five months, and the beneficial effects appeared to persist unabated. 

Here is the synopsis penned at the conclusion of the study:

“They [nurses] described the patients as calmer, more relaxed, less irritable, and smiling more. Two women with persistent screaming almost stopped doing so, which was a major relief for other patients and the staff. One patient stopped frequent vomiting. Two patients could stop all morphine within 3 months and 1 patient decreased by two-thirds in 2 months. These 3 patients had no more constipation, which was noted as an important time gain for the staff, beyond the benefit for the patients. One patient decreased benzodiazepine use by three-fourths after 3 months and 1 patient stopped two antipsychotic medications after 1 month.”

The families of the subjects were extremely pleased and gave very positive feedback.

In a 2006 study published in the journal of Molecular Pharmaceutics, scientists reported that THC “could be considerably better at suppressing the abnormal clumping of malformed proteins that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease than any currently approved prescription.” 

The research team predicted that cannabinoid-based medications “will be the new breakout medicine treatments of the near future.”

Marijuana strains and delivery methods available in Texas for treating dementia 

At this time, a limited menu of medical cannabis strains are available to patients in Texas dispensaries. Cannabis products, in keeping with state regulations, must contain less than one-half percent THC and a minimum of 10 percent CBD. These blends of high CBD and low THC are known to be more beneficial than pure CBD hemp oil with zero THC.

Terpenes, another compound found in cannabis, contribute greatly to the overall effectiveness of certain strains. This combination of terpenes and cannabinoids is known as the entourage effect.

Patients should discuss their condition with a Texas medical marijuana health practitioner, as well as their local bud-tender. This will ensure that the patient will find the perfect blend of cannabinoids and terpenes for optimum results.

There are several options for ingesting these low THC strains of medical cannabis, however, for Alzheimer’s patients, oral medications such as capsules, pills, beverages, powders, liquids, edibles, etc. are currently the standard delivery methods. Other methods such as smoking and vaping are not recommended for Alzheimer’s patients for obvious reasons. 

How to get Texas medical marijuana for Dementia

Patients suffering from dementia will first need to contact a Texas-certified medical marijuana physician.

An appointment can be set up by phone to determine if the patient has a qualifying condition. This will be followed up by an in-person evaluation.

Once the health care provider’s approval has been given to the patient, the name will be entered into the official state registry. The patient will then gain immediate access to Texas cannabis dispensaries or will have the option of home delivery. 

Texas Med Marijuana Certifications

Sign Up for Medical Cannabis in TX

For potential medical marijuana patients we makes it easy to connect with a recommending Texas doctor near you or online. You will also receive updates & news relative to medical marijuana in general. If you are interested please fill out the MMJ patient registration form and a clinic representative will contact you. Legal Residents Only.

Texas MMJ Registration Form

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