Senior citizens are the fastest-growing demographic among cannabis users, and there’s good reason for that.
The elderly population can benefit greatly from cannabis use, because it can help make their golden years more comfortable and pain-free. So it’s no surprise to see that this demographic continues to grow today while in the past they though that the use of cannabis was a bad thing.
The media has helped significantly in spreading awareness of cannabis use among the elderly. In fact, a 2020 poll by CBS revealed that there has been a 250% increase among cannabis use for people ages 65 and up, while those aged 50-65 have also increased use by 58%. And with 5.8 million of the American population living with Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions such as dementia, this almost inevitable stage in their life can use some help.
Alzheimer’s is a common progressive disease among the elderly, which starts out with slight memory loss. Over time, patients end up struggling with carrying on a conversation, and face difficulties with everyday life. If you have parents, it’s one of the things surely no one looks forward to dealing with.
How CBD Helps
Thankfully, there’s more new research supporting how cannabidiol (CBD) can help slow the onset of Alzheimer’s and make managing it simpler.
In March 2021, researchers from the Augusta Georgia Dental College of Georgia conducted a 2-week study with positive results. For the first time in history, they were able to demonstrate that CBD is beneficial in normalizing the level and function of the TREM2 and IL-33 proteins, which are vital in helping the immune systems of the brain eat off dead cells as well as other plaque that builds up in patients with Alzheimer’s. In addition, they found that CBD reduces IL-6 levels, an immune protein that has been linked to high inflammation among patients with this condition, says Dr. Babak Baban, a corresponding author of the study and an immunologist as well as an associate dean for research.
“Right now we have two classes of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s,” explains Dr. John Morgan, a study co-author, a neurologist and director for the Movement and Memory Disorder Programs of the MCG Department of Neurology. He says that one classes focuses on increasing acetylcholine, which is also reduced in Alzheimer’s, while another works by improving the NMDA receptors that assist with communication among neurons, and is necessary for memory. “But we have nothing that gets to the pathophysiology of the disease,” he adds.
In their animal study, the mice treatments revealed improved a 7 and 10-fold improvement among IL-33 and TREM2 respectively after they were given high doses every other day for 2 weeks. Aside from that, the mice who were given CBD also had better results in cognitive assessments and movement tests.
Dr. Hesam Khodadadi also says that individuals with Alzheimer’s are prone to movement issues such as an impaired gait or stiffness. But in the mice subjects, movement disorders stopped after they were given CBD.
“There is a dire need for due innovative therapeutic modalities to improve outcomes of AD patients… Our findings suggest that CBD treatment enhanced IL-33 and TREM2 expression, ameliorated the symptoms of AD, and retarded cognitive decline,” says the study.
How Else Cannabis Helps With Alzheimer’s
Other studies have supported the evidence we have today that CBD and other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant can improve quality of life and slow the onset of Alzheimer’s, especially when it comes to targeting inflammation.
In 2016, a study by Salk Institute researchers in California found that CBD among other cannabinoids was beneficial in improving the connection among brain cells in people with dementia. Their findings were validated in the lab too. “Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,” explains Professor David Schubert of Salk Institute, the paper’s senior author.
The research discovered that high amounts of amyloid beta was linked to inflammation on the cellular level, and neuron death. When the cells were exposed to THC, they found that amyloid beta protein levels were reduced and it also brought down the inflammatory response it caused, improving the survival rates of nerve cells.
“Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves,” explains first author Antonio Currais, who is also a postdoctoral researcher for Schubert. “When we were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to amyloid beta, it became clear that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the cells from dying.”
Other studies also found that when the body produces our own endocannabinoids, as well as exercise, can be beneficial in slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s.
On top of that, studies indicate that CBD works by reversing the brain’s aging process, which speeds up with Alzheimer’s. They specifically found that CBD has the potential in reversing dementia, though THC may be beneficial too though it can be challenging to treat seniors with THC due to their age.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the research proving how cannabis can help with Alzheimer’s. When compared to all the pharmaceutical medications with side effects, it’s clear that cannabis is the way to go.