Project Description

Definition

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), also known as Alzheimer disease, or just Alzheimer’s, accounts for 60% to 70% of cases of dementia. It is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time.

The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events (short term memory loss). As the disease advances, symptoms can include: problems with language, easily getting lost, mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care, and behavioural issues. As a person’s condition declines they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Although the speed of progression can vary, the average life expectancy following diagnosis is three to nine years.

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is poorly understood. About 70% of the risk is believed to be genetic with many genes usually involved. Other risk factors include: a history of head injuries, depression or hypertension. The disease process is associated with plaques and tangles in the brain. A probable diagnosis is based on the history of the illness and cognitive testing with medical imaging and blood tests to rule out other possible causes. Initial symptoms are often mistaken for normal aging. Examination of brain tissue is needed for a definite diagnosis. Mental and physical exercise, and avoiding obesity may decrease the risk of AD.

No treatments stop or reverse its progression, though some may temporarily improve symptoms. Affected people increasingly rely on others for assistance often placing a burden on the caregiver; the pressures can include social, psychological, physical, and economic elements. Exercise programs are beneficial with respect to activities of daily living and potentially improve outcomes. Treatment of behavioral problems or psychosis due to dementia with antipsychotics is common but not usually recommended due to there often being little benefit and an increased risk of premature death.

In 2010, there were between 21 and 35 million people worldwide with AD. It most often begins in people over 65 years of age, although 4% to 5% of cases are early-onset Alzheimer’s which begin before this. It affects about 6% of people 65 years and older. In 2010, dementia resulted in about 486,000 deaths. It was first described by, and later named after, German psychiatrist and pathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906. In developed countries, AD is one of the most financially costly diseases.

Medical Marijuana Efficacy

Findings of a preclinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, suggest very small doses of THC, a chemical found in marijuana, slow down the production of thebeta-amyloid protein, which builds up to create plaques in the brain, an accumulation of which is a known hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

Similar studies have also pointed out the effectiveness of THC in fighting the formation of harmful brain plaques. Researchers in a 2006 study conducted by the Scripps Institute found that THC blocked the aggregation of plaques completely, even better than the best known inhibitors, found in existing Alzheimer’s drugs.

Official Research Reports

The activation of cannabinoid CB2 receptors stimulates in situ and in vitro beta-amyloid removal by human macrophages. (Tolón RM, Núñez E, Pazos MR, Benito C, Castillo AI, Martínez-Orgado JA, Romero J. 2009)

Cannabinoids as Therapeutic Agents for Ablating Neuroinflammatory Disease (G. A. Cabral and L. Griffin-Thomas, 2009)

The Cannabinoid Receptor agonist Nabilone for the Treatment of Dementia-related Agitation. (Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, 2008)

Alzheimer’s disease; taking the edge off with cannabinoids? (V A Campbell and A Gowran, 2007)

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for night-time agitation in severe dementia. (Walther S, Mahlberg R, Eichmann U, Kunz D, 2006)

Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology by Cannabinoids: Neuroprotection Mediated by Blockade of Microglial Activation (Belén G. Ramírez, Cristina Blázquez,Teresa Gómez del Pulgar, Manuel Guzmán and María L. de Ceballos, 2005)

Open-label study of dronabinol in the treatment of refractory agitation in Alzheimer’s disease: a pilot study (Ross JS, Shua-Haim JR, 2003)