Medical Marijuana: Can It Prevent Alzheimer’s?
Canada is now the second country to legalize marijuana, with the passing of the Bill C-45, or the Cannabis Act. The bill aims to provide Canadians access to marijuana’s medical uses, making it easier to buy Indica or Sativa online. This opens opportunities for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease. Many studies show findings that indicate the positive effects of cannabis on patients with the illness.
Alzheimer’s in Canada
More than half a million Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society reports almost 25,000 new cases of the illness every year. The figure is expected to go up to 937,000 by 2031.
A 66 percent increase in the Alzheimer’s statistics is alarming, to say the least. Even costs for care are expected to rise. From $10.4 billion per year, the annual costs may swell to $16.6 billion.
The Cannabis Act brings hope in managing the condition and helping individuals with their healthcare costs. With much research about the benefits of marijuana on people with Alzheimer’s, the country remains positive in alleviating the issue.
Cannabis vs. Alzheimer’s Disease
In 2006, Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute led a study that found how THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) can slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. THC is an active compound in marijuana.
The active compound prevents the toxic clumping of amyloid beta protein in the brain, which starts the progression of the illness. Amyloid kills brain cells, leading to Alzheimer’s.
THC against Toxic Amyloid Beta Clumps
David Schubert of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies backs this research and previous studies. Schubert, along with his other researchers, found that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells. They found that the compound effectively works when it passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. From there, it attaches two kinds of receptors – cannabinoids receptor (CB) 1 and 2 – found on the body’s cell surfaces.
These receptors concentrate in neurons linked to memory, thinking, pleasure, coordination and time perception. They often bind with endocannabinoids, a class of lipid molecules. The body produces these during physical activity to promote the brain’s cell-to-cell signaling.
Research suggests that the binding of these receptors with THC could have another effect on an ageing brain. It appears that the binding helps the body get rid of toxic clumps of amyloid beta. Up to now, no one is still 100 percent sure about the cause Alzheimer’s. The researchers, however, saw how THC-like compounds made by nerve cells somehow helped in protecting the cells from dying.
The staggering number of Canadians with Alzheimer’s today, and in the future, calls for new approaches to managing dementia. The effects of marijuana on people with the illness may remain unclear, but medical cannabis can still provide a sense of greater physical and mental relaxation.
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