CBD for Alzheimer's Q&A
“My mother is 80 yrs old and has Alzheimer’s, and I have heard about CBD oil being beneficial to slowing disease progression. I don’t need medical marijuana services or a card but would like to understand how CBD is used dosed and benefit/risk. I would rather speak to clinicians than dealers or enthusiasts. If you can advise or even send me where I can get safe advise please let me know.
Thank you for your time.
Dear Mary, thanks for your question. We’ll do our best to provide you with actionable answers.
Before we delve into this, we’d like to say that we have readers in a similar situation who are also interested in the potential of medical cannabis to treat Alzheimer’s disease, so we’re not only going to talk about clinical and lab studies related to CBD but to THC as well. Some of the studies mentioned herein involved a combination of THC and CBD.
First off, we’d like to start with a caveat. There are no research studies that actually prove that either CBD or THC can cure Alzheimer’s Disease. Furthermore, more research needs to be done to determine the long-term effects of cannabis.
That being said, however, studies on the use of cannabis to treat the symptoms of the disease such as agitation and rigidity have shown promise. Moreover, there is some evidence — but again, no actual proof — that the use of cannabis might prevent or delay the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Today, more than 30 states have approved the use of either THC or CBD to treat a variety of medical conditions. At least 13 of those states have looked at the body of evidence and decided that it is strong enough to add Alzheimer’s Disease to their list of qualifying conditions. This fact alone speaks volumes as to the efficacy of medical cannabis in reducing these symptoms.
LABORATORY STUDIES on the use of THC and CBD in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
In one in vivo study, researchers administered a formula containing both THC and CBD to mice with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases, the subjects showed improved learning and exhibited a reduction in amyloid plaques in their brains.
Researchers in another study concluded that treatment with CBD provided neuroprotective, anti-oxidative, and anti-inflammatory properties and actually reversed cognitive deficits resulting from Alzheimer’s Disease. Moreover, this study was the first to demonstrate CBD’s ability to prevent the development of a social recognition deficit in mice with Alzheimer’s Disease. According to researchers their findings ”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.”
CLINICAL STUDIES on the use of THC and CBD in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
In terms of actual clinical studies attempting to determine the efficacy of cannabinoids in treating Alzheimer’s Disease, there have been very few. And the few that have taken place were small.
One study that took place in a healthcare facility in Geneva, Switzerland, involved ten women in their late 70s suffering from severe dementia-related behavioral problems. The patients were given a measured dose of cannabis oil containing a formula with a CBD-to-THC ratio of 2 to 1. To be exact, the formula averaged 9 mg of THC and 18 mg of CBD per day.
When the study was complete, researchers concluded that the treatment was not only well tolerated by the patients, it also greatly improved behavior problems and reduced rigidity.
According to the report, behavioral issues were reduced by 40 percent. Moreover, the use of other psychotropic medications was eliminated in half of the patients. Also, the staff at the facility reported that the patients became far easier to manage. The report also claims that the effects persisted after 2 months.
It’s important to note that three of the patients “seemed to have pain when swallowing, even worse with the (alcoholic) tincture, and had mouths ulcers.” However, when cannabis tincture was changed to cannabis oil, “the ulcers disappeared.”
Here is part of the conclusion reached by researchers in 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.
Furthermore, the feedback from the families overall was positive.
How cannabinoids might work to reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
There are three ways that CBD and other cannabinoids might reduce symptoms improve the quality of life for dementia patients.
Inflammation of the brain has been implicated in a worsening of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. When the brain produces an inflammatory response, immune cells fail to clear blockages and amyloid plaques tend to build up. The use of CBD has been shown to modulate this inflammatory response.
When inflammation appears in the brain, the added stress causes oxygen to be released. As oxygen levels increase in the brain, symptoms such as memory loss also increase. Known to be a powerful antioxidant, CBD helps reduce oxygen stress.
The brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients often show rapid decline and destruction. In clinical trials, CBD has been shown to prevent and even reverse the damage caused by Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, a study performed in 2011 found that CBD promotes the growth and development of brain cells and reduces the decline of memory and other brain functions.
Although the number of actual clinical studies into the effects of CBD and other cannabinoids on Alzheimer’s Disease patients is small, numerous in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that cannabinoids might protect and repair damage to brain cells caused by the condition as well as to reduce amyloid plaques, inflammation, and oxidation in the brain.
Although the use of cannabinoids, including CBD, seems to be well tolerated in Alzheimer’s patients and has the potential to provide relief from symptoms such as agitation, rigidity and memory loss, we highly recommend that anyone interested in treating these conditions with cannabinoids consult with a medical professional experienced in the use of cannabinoids, including CBD, before undertaking any treatment program involving these compounds.
Moreover, we recommend that you become familiar with the laws in your state as some states still consider not only THC but CBD, to be a controlled substance.
States in which Alzheimer’s Disease is a qualifying medical condition for the use of cannabis
As we mentioned, more than a dozen U.S. states with medical cannabis programs list Alzheimer’s Disease among the conditions which qualify residents for the use of medical cannabis, either CBD only, or both CBD and THC. Furthermore, some states not on this list such as New York and Florida put the decision in the hands of the attending physician.
These are the states that specifically consider Alzheimer’s Disease or symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease to be a qualifying medical condition:
- Georgia – severe or end-stage
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota*
- Rhode Island – Severe and persistent muscle spasms
- South Carolina* – CBD only
- Utah – CBD only
* Only cases involving agitation may qualify.
A list of research studies on the effects of cannabinoids on Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia
For those who would like to delve deeper into this topic, we have compiled this list of research studies into the efficacy of cannabinoids in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
- Karger – Prescription of a THC/CBD-Based Medication to Patients with Dementia: A Pilot Study in Geneva
- NCBI – Cannabis-based medicine reduces multiple pathological processes in AβPP/PS1 mice
- NCBI – Long-term cannabidiol treatment prevents the development of social recognition memory deficits in Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice.
- Alzheimers.net – The Effects of Medical Marijuana on Alzheimer’s Treatment
- Dementia Care Central – Using CBD (Cannabidiol) to Treat the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias
- NCBI – Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Agitation and Aggression in Alzheimer’s Disease
- NCBI – The therapeutic potential of the endocannabinoid system for Alzheimer’s disease
- NCBI – A molecular link between the active component of marijuana and Alzheimer’s disease pathology
- NCBI – Neuroprotective effect of CBD… on beta-amyloid-induced toxicity in PC12 cells
- NCBI – Cannabinoids for the treatment of dementia
- NCBI – CBD in vivo blunts beta-amyloid induced neuroinflammation by suppressing IL-1beta and iNOS expression
- NCBI – CBD: A promising drug for neurodegenerative disorders?
- NCBI – Cannabinoid receptor 1 deficiency in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease leads to enhanced cognitive impairment despite of a reduction in amyloid deposition
- NCBI – The role of the endocannabinoid system in Alzheimer’s disease
- NCBI – Cannabinoids for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: moving toward the clinic
- NCBI – Safety and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis Oil for Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia
- NCBI – Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Agitation and Aggression in Alzheimer’s Disease
- NCBI – Delineating the Efficacy of a Cannabis-Based Medicine at Advanced Stages of Dementia in a Murine Model
- MDPI – CBD Modulates the Expression of Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Genes in Mesenchymal Stem Cells
- NCBI – In vivo Evidence for Therapeutic Properties of CBD for Alzheimer’s Disease