Scientific studies over the last several years indicate that marijuana has the potential to help with, and potentially prevent, Alzheimer’s disease –– the dreaded “long death” that 5.1 million Americans experience according to the National Institute on Aging. The condition is reported to be the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and cost an estimated total of $203 billion in 2013 alone.
Since Alzheimer’s disease is thought to result from brain inflammation, some researchers think marijuana’s proven anti-inflammatory properties may be the reason why it helps patients with the degenerative brain condition. As David Downs reported for Smell the Truth, “Some neuroscientists believe a bout of pot smoking in early adulthood may prevent Alzheimer’s onset later in life,” and as Time reported in 2012, cannabis may slow brain aging.
This September the Journal of Alzheimers Disease published another study showing that THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana responsible for its euphoric “high,” could potentially work as a “therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.”
Researcher Chuanhai Cao led the study team at the University of South Florida and Thomas Jefferson University as they applied THC to Alzheimer’s research cells (N2a-variant amyloid-β protein precursor (AβPP) cells) and examined them for the protein linked with Alzheimer’s symptoms (amyloid-β). The researchers assessed the cells at 6, 24, and 48-hour time markers. They ultimately concluded that THC appears to directly inhibit aggression in amyloid-β proteins and is “effective at lowering Aβ levels…in a dose-dependent manner.” They did not detect any toxicity from the THC.
The researchers found THC was effective at lowering key Alzheimer’s markers and enhancing “the function of the cell’s energy factories –– the mitochondria,” as David Downs reported for Smell the Truth.
“Other research in the same journal that month indicates THC boosts the body’s natural anti-Alzheimer’s fighting mechanism –– the endocannabinoid system,” Downs reported. “Smoking, vaping, or eating the pot molecules THC and CBD directly effects nerve cell function, reducing chronic brain inflammation, oxidative stress, and cellular dysfunction –– all the while promoting stability of the human body’s internal environment (homeostasis) and healthy brain cells (neurotrophic support), studies show.”
As Dr. Cao, the study’s lead author and neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and the USF College of Pharmacy stated, “THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function.”
Read more about marijuana and Alzheimer’s in Downs’ recent article, here.