Alzheimer’s Research UK funds cannabis trial for dementia sufferers

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

People who suffer from dementia could soon be treated with a natural remedy, known as medical cannabis.

Well, that’s if the results of a forthcoming trial conducted by Alzheimer’s Research UK come back positive. Valued at $400,000, the trial on cannabis for dementia sufferers will hopefully determine a way in which the leafy green plant’s therapeutic compounds may relieve behavioral symptoms associated with dementia, such as aggression and agitation.

While people most often associate Alzheimer’s disease with memory problems, this is just one aspect of a complex condition that can affect people in different ways,” said the lead researcher, Professor Dag Aarsland.

“Many people with Alzheimer’s can become agitated or aggressive, and this can pose difficulties for the person with the condition and those closest to them. Current treatments for behavioral and psychiatric symptoms of dementia are very limited, and we desperately need to develop alternatives.”

Researchers at King’s College London will monitor the symptoms experienced by study subjects aged 55-90. Once the four-week cannabis trial for dementia is complete, the results will be examined to ascertain the level of symptomatic relief experienced by those who used Sativex and those who used a placebo.

Sativex will be used to determine the suitability of cannabis for dementia

In order to conduct the cannabis trial for dementia sufferers, Alzheimer’s Research UK will funnel funding into the use of a weed-based medicine called Sativex.

This specific cannabis-based medicine was developed and manufactured by a British-based pharmaceutical drug company called GW Pharmaceuticals; a company that has also received FDA approval for Epidiolex – a medicine for children aged two and above with rare types of epilepsy, e.g. Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet Syndrome.

CBD is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid that will not get the user high. Rather, it reacts with cannabinoid receptors inside the brain and body via the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

With the Alzheimer’s Society claiming there to be around 850,000 people suffering from dementia in the UK alone – and an additional 5.5 million across the U.S., according to the Alzheimer’s Association – an affordable cannabis-based medicine could positively impact millions of dementia sufferer’s lives, not to mention their families lives.

What is Sativex?

Sativex tastes like peppermint and it contains a balanced 1:1 ratio of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and it’s non-psychoactive cousin CBD. At the current time, Sativex is available for people who endure muscle discomfort and stiffness caused by multiple sclerosis (MS).

Existing treatments for the psychiatric and behavioral symptoms of dementia are extremely restricted. What’s more, they can often be harmful in large doses and in many cases, addictive.

“Doctors sometimes prescribe antipsychotic medications, and while these drugs can have important benefits, these need to be weighed against the risk of very serious side effects,” said Aarsland.

Thankfully, previous studies have shown promise for using cannabis to treat dementia. For example, this study on the use of THC as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) demonstrated how, after a four-wheel prospective trial, 10 patients experienced a major reduction In CGI severity score (6.5 to 5.7; p < 0.01) and NPI score (44.4 to 12.8; p < 0.01).

“Adding MCO to AD patients’ pharmacotherapy is safe and a promising treatment option,” concluded the researchers, upon discovering that the patients experienced a significant drop in irritability, apathy, sleep, delusions, aggression, agitation, and caregiver distress.