Studies have reported changes in the endocannabinoid system in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), playing a role in the pathophysiology of AD. Cannabinoids have been shown to have neuroprotective properties, reduce neuroinflammation, and enhance neurogenesis. Evidence suggests that the utilization of marijuana products containing both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) or CBD alone have been effective and safe for use in older people with agitation associated with dementia. A review in 2017 summarized positive findings for therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids in agitation of AD and dementia, but there was no definitive conclusion because of varying cannabinoid products. Cannabinoids were shown to be well tolerated, with few short-term side effects. This differs from first-line medications utilized for dementia behaviors, which can have unwanted side effects. Further research regarding the safety, efficacy, and variability of these products in older people is needed.
‘No miracle cures’
Family members of patients with dementia say CBD oil, short for Cannabidiol and derived from the cannabis plant, can make a world of difference.
David Scholey’s yelling used to echo through the hallways of his Ontario long term care facility in Fenelon Falls, Ont. Ever since he tried CBD oil two months ago, the 76-year-old’s dementia-related disruptions have declined.
Dr. Collins says there is little research so far on whether CBD oil is a safe and effective treatment for elderly patients, and it’s unclear how it could react with medications. But she there is a definite need for “new tools” to handle things disruptive behaviours.
Aggression and other disruptive behaviours linked to Alzheimer’s disease are notoriously difficult to treat, sometimes leading to patients being restrained or medically sedated, but some doctors are now investigating the potential for success with a new strategy: CBD oil.
Dr. Collins points out that all medications come with the risk of potential side effects.
Scholey joked that his brother is now a “pothead,” but also said that the therapy doesn’t appear be making David “high.” That’s likely because CBD is not the chemical in cannabis that makes people feel euphoric. The “high” comes mainly from Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).