Rates of dementia are rising precipitously in our nation–by 2050 1 in 2 seniors will die with dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is responsible a majority of cases of dementia. The compounds in cannabis possess properties that have potential to treat the symptoms of AD as well as potential to slow or prevent AD. However, research on this subject is still in its infancy. This panel will join advocates, basic researchers, clinical researchers, and healthcare providers for a first-of-its kind discussion of the current state of knowledge and the future of cannabis and AD.
Dr Jamie Cox
“A recent meta-analysis reported that the global prevalence of dementia is somewhere between 5 and 7 percent within people aged 60 or over. By the age of 85 years and older, between 25 and 50 percent of people display symptoms of dementia, more specifically Alzheimer’s.”
To date there have been a number of anecdotal studies and reports relaying the positive benefits of cannabis in this population. Recent studies have also demonstrated an ability to ease the psychological symptoms of dementia. To that end a joint partnership involving the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary and University of Saskatchewan and a licensed cannabis producer have united to perform RCT’s in both the extended care or nursing home environments as well as independent living populations
The goal is to achieve successful interventions to lower the burden of this condition on those so afflicted but also ease the significant healthcare costs for this population.
Emerging scientific evidence indicates that cannabis has several properties that could protect the brain from age-related cognitive decline, including effects that reduce inflammation, tau phosphorylation, and amyloid toxicity, as well as improve sleep. Other research points to a link between heavy marijuana use during adolescence and medial temporal atrophy and possible cognitive effects later in life. Moreover, psychoactive components of cannabis may lead to negative mental symptoms. These findings point to an unmet need to identify and test cannabis components that protect age-related brain health and minimize potential adverse effects.
The majority of the chemical scaffolds of the drugs in the clinic today are derived from plants. The compounds in Cannibas are able to interact with an endogenous system that is involved in most aspects of brain function, yet our understanding of the therapeutic potential of these compounds to treat diseases of the brain is very limited. During the last decade, the Schubert and Maher laboratories at the Salk Institute have devised a novel screening platform for Alzheimer’s drugs to identify plant derived natural products that after chemical modification are currently in various stages of clinical development. This drug discovery paradigm is currently being used to identify non-psychoactive cannabinoids that have the potential for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The results to date are very promising.