Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease causes a gradual loss in communication, memory, judgment, and learning abilities.
It is most common in people older than 65, and the highest concentration of patients with the disease are those older than 80. It is also known as Late-onset Alzheimer’s.
On the other hand, only 6-8% of patients develop early-onset Alzheimer’s, or this disease before they turn 65. The rarest form of Alzheimer’s is Familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD), and it is genetically inherited.
Alzheimer’s can cause symptoms that are classified into mild, moderate, and severe.
Mild symptoms include:
- Monetary difficulties
- Poor decision making
- Difficulty completely once-routine tasks
- Increased anxiety and aggression
- Lethargy and lack of purpose
- Memory loss
- Repeating the same questions
- Impaired sense of judgment
- Impaired sense of direction or getting lost.
Despite the ones listed above, moderate symptoms are:
- Requiring assistance when doing simple tasks
- Significant changes in personality and behavior
- Further deterioration of memory
- Poor judgment and worsening confusion.
Severe symptoms include the ones above as well as:
- Inability to converse or speak
- Complete dependence on others for many tasks
- Declining physical abilities (e.g. inability to walk or sit up straight, rigid muscles, etc.).
Unfortunately, current Alzheimer’s disease treatments are quite ineffective, and David Cameron, the Conservative former prime minister of the United Kingdom, called out the pharmaceutical industry for its failures undermining dementia research and drug development.
However, it is a fact that dementia drug research has failed miserably, and a mega-study that analyzed the effects of 244 drugs across 413 clinical trials, showed that just one drug was approved.
Despite the low number of drugs approved for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the other problem is that they are ineffective and even counterproductive.
Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy published a meta-analysis of 41 randomized control trials that showed that there is not one drug that reduces neuropsychiatric symptoms of this disease.
The only medication that causes significant benefits is memantine, as it boosts memory, cognition, and learning. Additionally, they are expensive and can add up to hundreds of dollars per month.
These drugs also cause numerous adverse effects such as nausea, insomnia, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, abdominal cramps, bruising, confusion, muscle cramps, vomiting, and fatigue.
Yet, researchers are apparently getting closer to a real solution to this disease, and it is cannabis.
This herb is becoming less and less taboo, and researchers claim it is beneficial in the treatment of:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Muscle spasms
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic pain
- Loss of appetite
- Eating disorders
- Excessive weight loss due to AIDS and cancer
- Mental health conditions like schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy)
Researchers believe that the onset and progression of the disease is the accumulation of a sticky plaque protein called beta-amyloid, which disrupts communication between neurons in the brain and leads to cellular death.
Yet, marijuana contains an active compound known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which eliminates the toxic buildup of beta-amyloid, according to researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California. It also fights inflammation in nerve cells.
Dave Schubert, the leading neurobiologist at the institute, and his team, have made another novel finding, as the inflammation produced in the brain might be a result of from beta-amyloid buildup within the neurons – not immune-like cells within the brain, and the THC-like compounds (within) the nerve cells can protect the cells from death.
The endocannabinoids activate brain receptors, and lead to intracellular signaling within the brain, since THC has similar molecular activity as endocannabinoids, and thus similarly impact the brain’s receptors.
Furthermore, Schubert’s tea found that a potential drug called J147 produces similar effects of beta-amyloid proteins and reduces the inflammatory response in the brain, by manipulating a mitochondrial protein called ATP, which provides cellular energy to neurons.
However, it is a fact that there is a need of further research that will search for effective alternative ways to treat this diseases, and to investigate these potential effects of cannabis on the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Meanwhile, if you take care of a person struggling with Alzheimer’s, you should know that you will not be able to stop the changes in behavior and personality that occur, but the following tips would be of great help:
- Keep things simple, and always ask or say one thing at a time;
- You should have a pattern or a daily routine that will help the patient know what to expect during the day;
- Focus on the feelings of the patient, not the words, and try to open a conversation about them;
- You should never argue with the patient or try to reason with him;
- You need to make the person feel safe so show support and ensure them that you are there to help;
- Find a place to walk, provide comfortable, sturdy shoes, take light snacks with you, as well as enough drinks;
- In order to distract the Alzheimer’s patient, you can try dancing, singing or listening to music;
- It would be useful to occasionally ask help from the person you take care of during the day, for instance, to help you fold the clothes or set the table;
- You might get upset, but you should never show your anger and frustration. Try breathing deeply, or leave the room for a short time;
- If possible, use humor.