For several centuries marijuana was utilized as an analgesic for pain relief. Up until the 1940’s marijuana was a legal substance and often used to alleviate a variety of ailments—much like the advocates of the use of medical marijuana are saying today. The federal government of the United States classifies marijuana as a high risk substance. Yet the proponents of medical marijuana state that it is rarely an addictive drug. In addition, there has never been a death by overdose on cannabis!
One of the medical areas that have benefited the most has been with Alzheimer’s patients. This form of dementia can leave an individual trapped in a healthy body with a memory that spans previous decades but can’t remember the most recent of events. The regression is gradual with an individual first feeling ‘forgetful’ yet it is much more than just forgetting where one left their car keys—it’s more of an inability to recognize how those keys are used. Eventually, the disease also takes the healthy body and turns it into a shell of its former self. Many times Alzheimer’s victims lose their appetite, or even forget how to feed themselves at the most severe stages.
On any given Alzheimer’s ward at a nursing home, you can see patients walking up and down the corridor hundreds of times during the course of the day. As, the disease progresses, they will get to the end of the corridor and just stand there—forgetting that they need to turn around! There is even a time of day when this activity becomes more active—it’s when the sun starts to set and is referred to clinically as ‘sun downing’. The patient is nervous, very agitated, can become aggressive or very emotional.
Individual studies have found that when a patient drinks a tea made from the marijuana leaves that their agitation dissipates and they are able to settle down for a peaceful evening. Their whole mood changes. Their appetite increases and meal time is no longer a fight to get some nourishment in to them.
As a result of studies done by scientists at Madrid’s Complutense University they were able to publish in the Journal of Neuroscience that cannabinoids, a compound found in marijuana, reduces the ‘pathological processes’ associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
It appears that there may be a strong link to these cannabinoids that can help with new drug development. Apparently, the cannabinoid receptors that we all have in our brains were much lower than those with healthy brains. These cannabinoid receptors work in conjunction with microglia cells to keep the immune system healthy. When these cells perceive themselves to be under attack, they cause an inflammation in the brain. The introduction of cannabinoids prevents that inflammation from taking place.
Medical Marijuana has not been proven to improve one’s short or long term memory, many would argue it is destructive to one or both, but it clearly has a positive effect on the disease of Alzheimer’s. First, it can delay the progression of the disease by preventing the inflammation to take place within the brain. Second, it can help with weight gain since food refusal is a very big problem for those with Alzheimer’s. Third, it helps with easing the symptoms of depression, acting as a mood enhancer. And fourth, it can ease that sense of agitation and aggressive behavior that often goes hand in hand with the disease.