Dementia is not a single condition. Instead, it is an umbrella term used to describe various symptoms such as memory loss and a decline in problem-solving skills. Such changes are often minor initially, but the changes in memory, behavior, and mood can get so severe that the afflicted individual struggles to cope with everyday life.
At present, there is no known cure for dementia. While there are dementia drugs available, they often lead to side effects such as muscle pain, insomnia, headaches, loss of appetite, and vomiting.
There is a suggestion that CBD oil could help manage certain physical and mental symptoms of dementia without the adverse effects of prescription medication. This article looks into research on CBD for dementia, the possible health benefits, dosage, and the available products.
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What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term describing an individual’s impaired ability to think, remember, or make decisions. It interferes with the completion of daily tasks. As a higher percentage of people are living to an advanced age, the rate of adults with the condition is set to increase significantly. According to the CDC, up to 14 million Americans, aged 65+ will have dementia by 2060.
The primary cause of dementia is brain cell damage. The cells lose their ability to communicate with one another, resulting in altered feelings and behavior and a disruption in normal thought patterns.
The brain has several distinct regions, and each one is responsible for various functions such as movement, judgment, and memory. Once the cells in a section of the brain are damaged, that brain area can’t conduct its normal functions.
Different forms of dementia are associated with specific regions of the brain. For instance, Alzheimer’s disease patients have excessive proteins both inside and outside of their brain cells, making it difficult for the cells to remain healthy and continue communicating properly. As a result, memory loss is one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s.
Types of Dementia & Symptoms
Alzheimer’s is by far the most common form of the condition, but there are several types, including:
- Huntington’s disease
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Parkinson’s (or Lewy body) dementia
- Vascular dementia
- Korsakoff syndrome
- Mixed dementia
The Alzheimer’s Association suggests that there are ten signs of the condition:
- Significant memory loss that disrupts your daily life.
- Issues with problem-solving or planning.
- Difficulties completing familiar tasks.
- Confusion regarding place or time.
- Problems understanding spatial relationships and visual images.
- Development of problems with the spoken or written word.
- Losing the ability to retrace one’s steps and misplacing things.
- Reduced judgment. For instance, giving large amounts of money to scammers.
- Social withdrawal.
- Major changes in personality and mood.
Dementia Diagnosis, Outlook, & Traditional Treatments
At present, there is no standardized test for dementia. Physicians diagnose the different forms based on a physical examination, lab tests, reports of a patient’s day-to-day function issues, and medical history. Common risk factors such as genetics and age can’t be changed, but modifiable risk factors like exercise and diet could reduce the likelihood of developing dementia.
Individuals with the condition will progress through the stages at different speeds and experience different symptoms.
Early diagnosis enables patients and their families to make care plans and allows them to participate in clinical trials. There are several stages of dementia:
- Mild cognitive impairment
- Mild dementia
- Moderate dementia
- Severe dementia
Treatment of the condition will depend on its cause and severity. There are therapy options available and medications such as memantine and cholinesterase inhibitors. However, these drugs are often associated with adverse effects.
Proponents of CBD, a non-intoxicating compound in marijuana, claim it can help with certain symptoms of dementia, especially in Alzheimer’s patients, without serious side effects.
How Could CBD Oil Help Dementia Patients?
Humans have used the cannabis plant to help with various medical conditions for thousands of years. It interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) and cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body.
The CB1 receptors in the ECS affect the nervous system and brain, and this receptor’s relationship with cannabis could hold the key to alleviating dementia symptoms.
According to Dr. Dustin Sulak, small doses of cannabinoids such as CBD signal the body to create more endocannabinoids and build more receptors. A greater number of receptors increases your sensitivity to cannabinoids, so it can take several uses before you feel an effect.
CB1 receptors can be found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain vulnerable to the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The CB2 receptor is found in the microglia, another part of the brain believed to play a role in developing Alzheimer’s.
A 2017 WHO report found that CBD is not a compound with high dependence or abuse potential. CBD doesn’t provide the high associated with THC, and it actually diminishes this cannabinoid’s intoxicating effect. As a result, experts generally consider it safe for the elderly.
CBD Oil and Dementia: What Are the Mental and Physical Effects?
Unfortunately, there is nothing available to alter the progressive course of the condition. At present, there is no known cure or disease-modifying therapy.
However, there is preliminary evidence that CBD could help manage some of the condition’s mental and physical effects. Although early research is promising, there is a significant amount of ground to cover before we can claim that CBD is effective for managing any of dementia’s symptoms.
According to a 2009 review of studies, CBD could protect neuronal and nonneural cells against issues like beta-amyloid, 6-hydroxydopamine, and glutamate, considered the basis of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
A study led by Professor David Schubert of the Salk Institute in California, published in 2016, found that CBD and THC could help remove dangerous, dementia-causing proteins from the brain. In the study, the research team found that a small dose of synthetically produced cannabinoids led to the removal of a toxic plaque associated with dementia.
Amyloid-beta is a protein that creates a dangerous plaque in the brain, thereby destroying brain cells.
Scientists believe that amyloid-beta accumulates in the walls of the brain cells before Alzheimer’s symptoms become apparent. Schubert spoke of his frustration with the existing cannabis laws. He said: “It’s blatantly obvious that this plant should be studied in greater detail.”
Another study, published in Nature Medicine in 2017, looked at the potential of cannabis to improve the memory and learning capabilities of older mice. The team found that small doses of THC improved the learning skills and memory of the mice.
A review of studies published in The Senior Care Pharmacist in 2020 looked into the use of cannabis in dementia patients. The researchers noted that cannabinoids had neuroprotective properties and could enhance neurogenesis and reduce neuroinflammation. A major positive was the lack of adverse effects from marijuana usage compared to first-line medications used for dementia behaviors.
However, they also wrote that additional research regarding the safety and efficacy of cannabis for dementia was necessary.
Like dementia, Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder. Patients with Parkinson’s experience decreased dopamine production, leading to physical issues such as tremors and muscular rigidity. CBD and other cannabinoids contain antioxidants and effective brain protectors to help manage Parkinson’s disease.
A study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2020 looked into the safety and tolerability of CBD in Parkinson’s patients. All thirteen participants who used Epidiolex experienced adverse effects such as dizziness, weight gain, and fatigue. However, the ten patients who completed the study benefited from improved motor functions.
A Canadian review of studies published in 2019 looked into medical cannabis to treat dementia. The researchers found that medical marijuana could help with agitation, aberrant motor behavior, disinhibition, aberrant vocalization, and other neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with dementia.
The review also found some studies that outlined “improvement in rigidity and cognitive scores as assessed by Mini-Mental State Examination.” However, several of the studies reviewed by the researchers revealed no favorable or unfavorable evidence regarding the efficacy of cannabinoids in helping with the effects of dementia.
Health Benefits of CBD for Dementia
Ultimately, dementia patients don’t use CBD to help cure the condition. Instead, using the cannabinoid could improve their overall quality of life. Dementia’s effect on the brain may cause a senior to become anxious or agitated in everyday scenarios.
On occasion, the agitation leads to violence. While there’s no research to suggest CBD helps with memory loss, it could help keep dementia patients calmer and ensure they’re less prone to aggression. Family members often claim that cannabidiol helps change their loved one’s demeanor from anxious and depressed to cheerful.
There is also a possibility that CBD can reduce tremors and rigidity, perhaps enabling the patient to move more freely without pain.
CBD Oil Dosage for Dementia
Barring Epidiolex, which contains CBD, no other form of the cannabinoid is FDA approved. Therefore, there is no official guidance on the dose of CBD to use in any situation. As it acts on dozens of molecular pathways, its relationship with the brain and body is complex. Many factors determine how much CBD one should use, including:
- Medical issue
- The severity of the condition
- Medications currently being used
- Consumption method
Therefore, a heavier individual may need more CBD than their lighter counterpart to have similar effects. The symptoms of dementia presented by the patient also dictate dosage. For instance, someone with severe dementia may require more than an individual with a mild case.
Vaping has a higher bioavailability than CBD oil taken orally. This means a greater percentage of the cannabinoid has an effect when you vape it than when you use CBD oil or edibles.
However, the best advice we can give is to start with as low a dose as possible. Monitor the results and increase the dosage until you’re happy with the effects. And please don’t start any CBD regimen without consulting your treating physician first.
CBD Oil and Dementia: Where to Buy?
Before purchasing any CBD product, please note that it is not designed to treat dementia. Instead, it could help alleviate some of the negative effects of dementia. CBD is widely available in most states, and you can purchase:
- CBD oil
- CBD edibles
- CBD vape liquid
- CBD topicals
- CBD capsules
Vape liquid is perhaps the best option for anyone looking to experience the effects of CBD quickly. In contrast, edibles can take hours to have a noticeable impact, but the effects last much longer.
There are tens of thousands of physical locations selling CBD products, including dedicated stores and gas stations. However, the industry is unregulated, so it is perhaps safer and more convenient to shop online. You will find a greater range of products that offer better value for money. Perhaps more importantly, you can check out the brand’s reputation and ensure its third-party lab reports are legitimate and up to date.
We cover a wide range of CBD companies in our reviews. However, to save you some time, here are five of the top-rated brands in the industry:
Final Thoughts on CBD and Dementia
For many patients with dementia, it is a long and lonely road ahead. The symptoms of dementia can slowly but surely lead to harmful effects on memory and mood and make it difficult to perform daily tasks. However, recent research into the impact of CBD on the symptoms of dementia conditions such as Alzheimer’s offers a ray of hope.
Recent research into the impact of CBD on the symptoms of dementia conditions such as Alzheimer’s offers a ray of hope.
While the intoxicating compound, THC, could potentially remove amyloid clumps in the brain – which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s – CBD may have a similar effect. Also, CBD may help reverse the signs of aging in body organs.
One thing we know is that research needs to continue so we can see if these promising beginnings turn into something more concrete.