Cannabis and Dementia

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a controversial topic in the medical community, with some well-respected doctors advocating for its use and others concerned about its addictive properties and long-term effects. There have been a number of articles in newspapers and blogs over the years that claim that cannabis or one of its components called cannabinoids could help to treat dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.

How does cannabis affect the brain?

Cannabis targets receptors throughout the brain, including those in the hippocampus, which is the memory and learning center.  The cannabinoid component of cannabis stimulates activity in the hippocampus, causing many of the symptoms associated with use of the drug, euphoria and a sense of relaxation.  Some studies have found that taking cannabis could help to manage some of the behavioral symptoms of dementia, for example agitation and aggression.

However more work is needed to understand what the long-term effect of taking medical marijuana and whether this could actually be an effective approach.  As researchers continue to explore the drug as a potential treatment to chronic and terminal illnesses, some studies are focusing their efforts on the effects of medical marijuana on Alzheimer’s treatment and symptoms.  If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia and have concerns or questions about cannabis, the Alzheimer Association recommends that you consult with your doctor or other health care professionals.

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