JUL 01, 2020 10:21 AM PDT

Could THC Help Advanced Alzheimer's Symptoms?

WRITTEN BY: Angela Dowden

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) according to the Alzheimer’s Organization. When the situation gets bad for patients, doctors can prescribe a number of medications that include antipsychotics and sedatives.

A recent case report in the Frontiers in Psychiatry journal focuses on the medical treatment of a female AD patient, aged 69, who was a patient at the Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria. The woman's symptoms on initial assessment included memory loss, poor spatial orientation, paranoia, and mild depression.

Over time the patient’s physical and mental condition deteriorated, necessitating the use of a heavy cocktail of prescription medications to deal with seizures and psychotic behaviour. She also became increasingly uncommunicative and physically aggressive towards those caring for her.

The doctors concluded that, in large part, the patient's distressing symptoms were due to the side effects of the heavyweight medications she was taking, and that these were seriously impacting her quality of life. They decided to see if a low dose of dronabinol, a lab-made form of the cannabis chemical THC might help. The drug was initially created to help treat nausea and lack of appetite associated with chemotherapy or AIDS and is FDA-approved under the brand name Marinol.

The results were really encouraging—dronabinol treatment had a significantly positive effect, improving the patient's mental state and aggression, and alertness. So much so, doctors were able to cut her usage of six medications down to just three. Cannabinoids like THC have a distinct pharmacologic profile that may offer an alternative approach to antipsychotics and sedatives for treating neuropsychiatric symptoms. 

Of course this is just one patient—a limitation that the researchers readily acknowledge. Meanwhile the Alzheimer’s Society cautions that ‘speculation regarding cannabis and cannabis-derived products as an Alzheimer’s therapy has outpaced current scientific information’.

Nevertheless there is added weight to this case report as there was a very long follow-up period of 11 years with a close and detailed recording of clinical data and medication history.

'Our report underpins the need for randomized, controlled trials to explore the effect of cannabinoid receptor agonists on behavioral and psychological symptoms in patients in different stages of AD', the researchers wrote.

In Perth, Australia, investigators are already on the case, testing a medical cannabis spray in patients with milder demetia, while Denver recently issued its first license for medical marijuana research to company Med Pharm, who will also examine the effects of cannabis on Alzheimer’s disease.


Sources: Merry Jane, Frontiers In

About the Author
  • I'm a Journalist and author with many year's experience of writing for both a consumer and professional audience, mostly on nutrition, health and medical prescribing. My background is food science and I'm a registered nutritionist.
You May Also Like
JUL 07, 2020
Microbiology
Why Some Are Naturally Better at Preventing Urinary Tract Infections
JUL 07, 2020
Why Some Are Naturally Better at Preventing Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections can be very painful and can cause nausea, chills, and fever. A pathogenic strain of E. coli is ...
JUL 09, 2020
Immunology
Why COVID Herd Immunity Is Important but Impossible
JUL 09, 2020
Why COVID Herd Immunity Is Important but Impossible
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide is steadily approaching 12 million. Meanwhile, despite accelerated time ...
JUL 19, 2020
Microbiology
A Hybrid Fungus Is Linked to Lung Infections
JUL 19, 2020
A Hybrid Fungus Is Linked to Lung Infections
A type of fungus that's been found in soil or plants has now been identified in a hospital environment and in people for ...
JUL 28, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Cancer Diagnostics Go Skin Deep
JUL 28, 2020
Cancer Diagnostics Go Skin Deep
The average adult human has between 16 and 22 square feet of skin. This multifaceted organ serves a multitude of functio ...
JUL 23, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Lab Tests Show Levels of THC Can Rise in CBD Oil During Storage
JUL 23, 2020
Lab Tests Show Levels of THC Can Rise in CBD Oil During Storage
To be federally legal in all states CBD (cannabidiol) oil must contain less than 0.3 percent of the psychoactive ingredi ...
JUL 26, 2020
Microbiology
Ongoing Salmonella Outbreak Rapidly Spreads to 23 States
JUL 26, 2020
Ongoing Salmonella Outbreak Rapidly Spreads to 23 States
The CDC has announced that an outbreak of infections related to a strain of the bacterium Salmonella is "rapidly growing ...
Loading Comments...