Could Marijuana Be the Answer to Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerDecember 5, 2016

A new study from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies implies that THC, a chemical found in marijuana, may stop the production of beta amyloid and stop nerve cells in the brain from being destroyed.

Learn more about this new study and the federal obstacles that may prevent medical marijuana for being used as a treatment method for Alzheimer’s.

New Marijuana Study Reinvigorates Hope for Alzheimer’s Treatment

A new study from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies suggests that marijuana may be the answer to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers created cellular conditions to mimic Alzheimer’s, modifying nerve cells to produce beta-amyloid, the production of which is a hallmark of the disease and related forms of dementia. As the beta-amyloid production continued, it eventually caused the death of nerve cells, ultimately progressing Alzheimer’s.

During this process, researchers noted the receptors in the nerve cells that are responsible for sending signal for appetite, memory and pain. These molecules in nerve cells are known as endocannabinoids. Researchers hypothesized that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical found in marijuana that is similar to endocannabinoids, is able to activate the same receptors could potentially block the receptors that lead to beta amyloid production and prevent the death of nerve cells and stop the progression of Alzheimer’s.

To test their theory, researchers applied THC to the cells that were producing beta amyloid and found that the application of THC reduced beta-amyloid production, stopping the inflammatory response, saving the nerve cells.

The Long Road to Approval

While the results of the study are promising and can bring new hope for people suffering from Alzheimer’s, the truth is that a path to approval for medical marijuana to treat the disease is not in the immediate future.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently issued a ruling keeping cannabis on the list as an illicit substance. The FDA has also said that there is still so much more they need to learn about marijuana before allowing it to be used as a medical treatment, also saying there are no recognized medical benefits to the drug. There are also struggles for marijuana production businesses receiving loans from banks and tax issues because marijuana is still a federally illegal substance.

Although the drug has been shown to have some medicinal benefits for a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, without government backing, the ability to conduct FDA approved clinical studies and actual implementation of the drug for Alzheimer’s treatments will have to wait.

Would you consider using marijuana to treat or alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s? Why or why not?

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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