As medical cannabis becomes more prevalent in the US, the list of conditions that patients are using medical cannabis to treat is expanding. Symptoms related to cancer treatment, pain management, insomnia, and mental health are some of the more common conditions medical cannabis is recommended, but there is a rising interest in its potential benefits for other conditions, such as its therapeutic use for people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. As Alzheimer’s and other dementia’s progress, behaviors change. Many people find the changes in behavior caused by Alzheimer’s to be the most challenging and distressing effect of the disease. The chief cause of behavioral symptoms is the progressive deterioration of brain cells (i). There are traditional medications on the market to help cope with the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s but many of them are known to have harmful side effects. Cannabinoids interact with the body in a different way, which means some physicians believe they could be safer and more effective for a patient who suffers from Alzheimer’s agitation.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, studies have shown that medical cannabis can be effective in lessening symptoms such as aggression, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, and depression. A recent study suggests medical cannabis oil containing THC is associated with the reduction and relief of various symptoms of Alzheimer’s agitation and dementia. Cannabinoids have been shown to have neuroprotective properties, reduce neuroinflammation, and enhance neurogenesis. Evidence suggests that the utilization of marijuana products containing both THC and CBD or CBD alone have been effective and safe for use in older people with agitation associated with dementia (ii).

While there is still a lot of research to be conducted, the handful of studies so far point to medical cannabis as a promising treatment option to help those suffering from Alzheimer’s have a better quality of life. If you are suffering from agitation due to Alzheimer’s or caring for someone who is, speak to a physician about medical cannabis as an alternative way to decrease the severity of behavioral symptoms. If you are currently using medical cannabis to treat agitation caused by Alzheimer’s, we want to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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