The research, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, says the “THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.”
More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s. One in 3 seniors will die from the disease or some other dementia.
Chuanhai Cao and other researchers at the University of Southern Florida and Thomas Jefferson University set out to investigate the therapeutic qualities of THC as an effective drug to slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s. According to the study, the results were positive. THC lowers certain markers of the disease in research cells, and “enhances” the function of the cell’s energy factories.
Results revealed that THC administered in extremely low doses can reduce the creation of amyloid beta in the body, which is typically found in soluble form in most elderly brains, and also helps to prevent abnormal levels of this protein accumulating — a process that is considered to be a pathological hallmark that is evident in the early stages of memory loss associated with the disease. THC given in low concentrations was also found to selectively enhance mitochondrial function — a critical step needed to supply energy, transmit signals, and overall maintain healthy brain function.
“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,” stated study lead author Cao.
“The dose and target population are critically important for any drug, so careful monitoring and control of drug levels in the blood and system are very important for therapeutic use, especially for a compound such as THC,” Dr. Cao said.
The researchers point out that at the low doses studied, the therapeutic benefits of THC appear to prevail over the associated risks of THC toxicity and memory impairment.
Other research in the same journal indicates THC boosts the body’s ability to fight the disease. Some neuroscientists even believe that smoking marijuana in early adulthood may prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s later in life.
Since California’s passage Proposition 215, it is “legal for patients and their designated primary caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for their personal medical use given the recommendation or approval of a California-licensed physician.
Patients can get information about California’s Medical Marijuana Program on the Department of Public Health’s website.
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