Does Alzheimer’s Qualify for Medical Marijuana in Georgia?
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia that over 6 million Americans currently live with, a number that is expected to increase to 13 million by 2050. With growing concern from the medical and scientific community to focus more attention on the rapidly growing disease, many are looking at cannabis as a potential medicine.
While studies are ongoing, there are some strong suggestions that the role cannabis can play in Alzheimer’s extends beyond mood regulation and into more critical roles such as cognitive improvement and possibly a reduction in experienced symptoms.
In the pursuit of investigating the relationship between cannabis and Alzheimer’s, Georgia has approved Alzheimer’s as a qualifying condition for a medical marijuana license when it is diagnosed as severe or end-stage.
What Is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain, causing unnatural cognitive function and cellular death. It is a progressive, permanent condition that will worsen over time and can unfortunately lead to premature death. Alzheimer’s can be diagnosed early with mild symptoms, but the condition will likely be expected to worsen over time.
Patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s can experience a range of dementia-related symptoms, including mild to severe short term memory loss that can lead to the inability to perform daily life activities.
It is often the case that many who suffer from Alzheimer’s will forget important details in their life, such as the names or memories of loved ones, family members, or their surroundings. This can be especially difficult for patients and their family, as often full-time care is required in advanced Alzheimer’s.
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Is there a Cure for Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s can be diagnosed at different severities and stages, ranging from early with mild symptoms, to late with severe symptoms.
The prognosis for those suffering from Alzheimer’s can vary and is relative to the diagnoses. While those experiencing mild symptoms may experience a longer lifespan, the progressive nature of the condition will play the largest role in determining the survival rate, with an average of around 8-20 years.
Currently there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, however there are some medications approved by the FDA that can help relieve symptoms of Alzheimer’s, or in some cases aide in reducing the progression of the disorder.
Unfortunately, nearly all of these medications are accompanied by unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, and in some cases, anorexia.
Because these medications present such undesirable effects, many have looked at cannabis as a potential medicine in fighting not only the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but in possibly preventing the advancement of the disease.
Can Medical Marijuana Help Treat Alzheimer’s?
Cannabis has been surprisingly linked to improved cognitive function, with specific compounds in the plant having anti-inflammatory properties which may aide in reducing the progression of Alzheimer’s and treating some of the symptoms.
While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown, there are several suspected culprits that may play a part in the development and progression of the disease. One of these possible antagonists is the accumulation of amyloid-plaques in the brain, sticky deposits full of a protein called beta-amyloid that collect on the outside of cells.
Research has shown that there is consistent over accumulation of beta-amyloid within nerve cells in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.
High levels of beta-amyloid is associated with cellular inflammation and higher rates of cellular death.
While cellular death is normal in the development of the central nervous system or in small amounts of cells over long periods of time, it is not normal in the brain, and especially not normal in the case of rapid or advanced cellular death such as seen with Alzheimer’s.
Cannabis, Inflammation, & Cellular Death
Early studies indicate that cannabis has a specific interaction with beta-amyloid accumulation in nerve cells, reducing their buildup and preventing the cellular death that the accrual causes.
Originally, inflammation in the brain that has been heavily linked to neurodegenerative disease was thought to be caused by immune-like cells in the body, not nerve cells.
But after observing the cellular inflammation caused by the accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in nerve cells, the Salk Institute released a study showing that nerve cells are in fact relative to inflammation in the brain, possibly a crucial link to how Alzheimer’s is developed.
By exposing the cells to THC, the institute found that the beta-amyloid proteins were overall reduced, the inflammatory response from the nerve cells was not activated.
Further, studies have shown a significant link between THC and the reduction of amyloid-beta, preventing the cellular death caused by the over accumulation of the protein.
These findings exemplify the need for more study on the relationship between our endocannabinoid system and the brain’s cognitive functioning. It is a strong possibility that the regulation of the endocannabinoid system may play a critical role in the diagnoses, and prognosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The symptoms that medical marijuana can help alleviate in Alzheimer’s include aggression, insomnia, hallucinations, anxiety, and depression. That means that sufferers could have a much better quality of life when on medical marijuana, and that their life could be lengthened due to the decrease in inflammation. However, there is no evidence that medical marijuana offers a cure or a considerably lengthened life.
Additional symptoms that medical marijuana may help alleviate in Alzheimer’s patients include:
If you’re interested in learning more about using medical marijuana to help with Alzheimer’s, consult with one of our medical marijuana doctors and they can help you navigate the right options for you.
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