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Exploring Medical Cannabis Effects on Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

If you or a loved one are living with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or another major brain disorder, you might be wondering if medical cannabis could improve your quality of life.

While medical cannabis isn’t a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it can increase comfort for patients and help them manage some of the associated symptoms of memory loss.

In this guide, we’re breaking down everything patients and their loved ones need to know about using medical marijuana for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. We’ll explore the nuances between the two conditions, dive into current scientific thought regarding medical cannabis support, identify potential applications for patients, and explore some important considerations for caretakers.

Alzheimer’s Disease vs. Dementia

Before we get into the potential usefulness of medical marijuana for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients, let’s break down some key differences between the two conditions:

  • Dementia is a general term describing a significant decline in mental ability—a decline substantial enough to impact a patient’s day-to-day life. Dementia can describe a degeneration of memory, critical or complex thinking skills, or reasoning.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is a cause of dementia—it’s a specific illness, not a general set of symptoms. Alzheimer’s is caused by complex cell damage and brain changes, and it typically worsens over time.

So, Alzheimer’s disease is one cause of dementia, and dementia is just one potential outcome for Alzheimer’s patients. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for the vast majority of dementia cases, but not all.

Aside from memory loss, symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Difficulty processing new information
  • Disorientation
  • Trouble speaking
  • Mobility challenges
  • Difficult swallowing

As brain degeneration progresses, symptoms typically become more severe.

It’s important to note that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are distinct from normal aging. While our brains change as we age, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients experience specific and severe brain changes that directly impact thinking, memory, movement, and quality of life.

Medical Cannabis and Memory Challenges: What We Know

So, what does the medical community currently know about medical cannabis and memory challenges like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? Let’s break down some of the current scientific evidence and offer some anecdotal reports from patients.

Scientific Evidence

A 2019 review succinctly sums up current data related to marijuana and Alzheimer’s: While scientists still need more information to make solid conclusions, marijuana could be useful for treating or preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Caring nurse holding kind elderly lady's hands in bed.At this time, healthcare experts don’t know much more than that.

However, there’s growing evidence to support that medical cannabis can help patients find relief from:

  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Low appetite
  • Mood instability

All of these symptoms are relevant to people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Ongoing degeneration can cause mobility challenges and pain for patients.
  • Discomfort can lead to trouble sleeping.
  • Trouble speaking and swallowing can influence appetite and nutrition.
  • Confusion can often lead to frustration, anger, anxiety, or sadness.

While scientists are still studying potential links between dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and marijuana use, one thing is clear: marijuana can benefit Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients in the pursuit of improved quality of life.

Anecdotal Reports

Anecdotally, cannabis can help people achieve physical comfort, mental peace, and a healthy mind-body connection. But it’s important to remember that cannabis isn’t a miracle cure—there’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, marijuana included.

That said, medical cannabis patients report overwhelmingly positive results when they leverage marijuana for quality-of-life improvements:

“I highly recommend medical cannabis if you are looking for pain relief, relief from depression, want to sleep better, or eat better.”

-Jarrod M.

“Because of medical marijuana, the pain from my side is gone.”

-Courtney P.

“Marijuana helps me with my daily pain and gets my mind straight.”

-Allen H.

While medical cannabis for dementia may not be well-studied yet, patients living with chronic pain, appetite challenges, mood issues, and other conditions have found lasting relief (and in some cases, long-term recovery) with medical marijuana.

Medical Marijuana Applications for Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Patients

Let’s dig deeper into some of the quality of life improvements that dementia and Alzheimer’s patients could unlock with medical cannabis.

Sleep Support

Old woman sleeping in the bed.

Anecdotally, medical cannabis patients report sleep improvements like:

  • Falling asleep faster
  • Getting deeper, more restful sleep
  • Sleeping consistently through the night
  • Maintaining a more regular sleep schedule

If you or a loved one are living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and deep sleep seems out of reach, medical marijuana could help you unlock the sleep balance you’re looking for. If you’re looking to use cannabis for sleep, consider:

  • Setting a schedule – Using calendar or phone reminders to remember to take your dose of cannabis will help you create and maintain consistency.
  • Experimenting with cannabinoid combinations – While some patients turn to CBD for sleep support, others find the relief they’re looking for in THC-forward formulas. Talk to your medical marijuana doctor and budtender to find the perfect combination of cannabinoids for your desired effects.

Anxiety

People living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia could experience sudden mood changes as a result of confusion. Simply put, thinking changes are incredibly frustrating.

For patients and their loved ones looking for mood support or anxiety relief, medical cannabis could be the answer. Patients report that marijuana helps them:

  • Slow down their racing thoughts
  • Identify and process complex emotions and concepts
  • Unpack past events to heal from trauma
  • Find balance in highly stressful moments

Whether you use a smokable product or regularly dose with edibles, medical cannabis can support everyday mood balance and relief from anxiety.

Pain

Medical cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain has received ample media attention as of late—particularly for patients living with painful or degenerative diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, symptoms generally worsen. In many cases, this can result in mobility challenges. Trouble walking and moving as normal can lead to muscle stiffness and pain.

Medical cannabis can offer exceptional relief for people experiencing physical pain from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Plus, you don’t even have to consume marijuana to enjoy the pain relief benefits—for highly local or acute pain, consider topical products (like creams and lotions) with active cannabinoid ingredients to find comfort.

Appetite

“The munchies” is one of the media’s most prolific symbols for marijuana use—and some strains and products can induce appetite. For people struggling with everyday tasks (including eating regularly), appetite stimulation could help with comfort and overall wellness.

There are a few ways Alzheimer’s and dementia patients could leverage medical marijuana for appetite health:

  • Dosing before dinner – Taking a dose of medical cannabis before a meal could help patients complete meals or eat a wider variety of foods.
  • Eating cannabis-infused foods – By using cannabis oils and tinctures to infuse foods (both sweet and savory dishes), patients can unlock the quality of life improvements of cannabis as they enjoy their favorite meals.

Considerations for Memory Loss Caretakers

As dementia and Alzheimer’s symptoms progress, patients may become increasingly dependent on a caretaker—you may even already be a caretaker for someone struggling with memory loss.

If a loved one has expressed an interest in trying medical cannabis, here are a few things to keep in mind as they incorporate marijuana into their lifestyle:

  • Consistency is key – When it comes to quality of life improvements, staying ahead of symptoms is critical. Set alarms for dosing and try to stick to a regular schedule as consistently as possible.
  • Start low and slow – If your loved one is having trouble choosing a dose, remember to start low and slow. You can always increase the dose to reach the patient’s desired effects, but taking too much marijuana can be uncomfortable.
  • Supervise – Depending on the cannabinoid combination they choose, the patient might experience intoxicating effects from medical marijuana. In any case, monitor your loved one closely as they get accustomed to medical cannabis and talk to them about their responses when possible.

TeleLeaf: Connecting Patients with Plant-Based Care

While medical cannabis isn’t a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it can help patients discover relief from associated challenges and unlock improved quality of life.

If you’re looking for an accessible, simple, and affordable medical card solution, turn to TeleLeaf—your partner in healing with cannabis. At TeleLeaf, we’re passionate about connecting patients to the safe, effective, and plant-based care that medical cannabis can provide.

Schedule an appointment today.


Sources:

Alzheimer’s Association. Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: What’s The Difference?. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/difference-between-dementia-and-alzheimer-s

Journal of Pharmacopuncture. A Review on Studies of Marijuana for Alzheimer’s Disease – Focusing on CBD, THC. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6970569/

Medical News Today. Marijuana (Cannabis): Good or Bad?. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320984

Sleep Foundation. Using Cannabis as a Sleep Aid. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-aids/cannabis-and-sleep

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