Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Marijuana, Brain Health, and Alzheimers Disease

While millions of Americans of all ages are using marijuana for a variety of reasons, including relief from pain, anxiety and nausea, researchers have begun to study whether prolonged use of cannabis can affect the brain.  The simple answer is "yes, but whether the effect is good or bad depends on a variety of factors."  Although no one dies of an overdose from marijuana, which is increasing its general acceptance by the public, there are both pros and cons to its use.

What are some of the facts which researchers have discovered about marijuana use?  The information below may help you determine whether or not it is right for you.

The THC in Marijuana May Slow Alzheimer's Disease

One of the scariest diseases facing aging Americans is Alzheimer's Disease, which is believed to be caused by beta-amyloid proteins building up in the brain.  These proteins turn into amyloid plaques and the good news is that the THC from marijuana appears to block the enzyme which produces the plaques. A preclinical study published in the "Journal of Alzheimer's Disease" (June 1, 2017) indicated that very small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (better known as THC) can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins.  Since THC is the component in marijuana which can make you "high," getting the dosage right is very important.

Even earlier, in 2006, Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego also observed that THC was an inhibitor of amyloid plaque formation and they published their findings in the "Journal of Molecular Pharmaceutics" on August 9, 2006.

Researchers are continuing to study whether THC can also have beneficial effects on other neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's Disease and Huntington's Chorea.

One difficulty with this research is determining the best dosage to benefit the patient while still allowing them to lead a normal life, drive a car and not suffer from the toxic or psychoactive effects of THC.

CBD and THC Can Treat Pain, Anxiety and Other Problems

Not all the components of marijuana make you high.  CBD is a substance found in marijuana which has health benefits, but will not make you high. Often it is derived from hemp rather than the marijuana plant, although the two plants are closely related.  Research indicates that CBD can relieve anxiety, reduce pain, stimulate bone growth, and possibly have anti-inflammatory benefits.  Other benefits may include a reduction in breast cancer cells.

THC, the component in cannabis which can make you high, can ease pain, increase relaxation, reduce the risk of nerve damage and suppress muscle spasms and convulsions.

CBD is often combined with THC to provide maximum benefits. The ratio of CBD to THC can range from 18:1 CBD to THC, up to a 1:1 ratio between the two components.  Unfortunately, finding the correct dosage for your problem is currently a matter of trial and error.  It is recommended that you seek the assistance of a doctor who is a Medical Cannabis Specialist to help you.

These products are available in oils, creams, vape pens, pills and edibles.  

Tips for Older Adults Experimenting with Cannabis

Since it can be difficult to determine the best dosage, and the right CBD to THC ratio for your health issue, experts recommend a few safety tips when you begin to use the products.

1.  Start with the lowest possible amount of THC and the highest concentration of CBD to make sure you can comfortably and safely tolerate the THC.  If it helps your problem, stick at that level.  If not, increase the ratio and quantity slowly.

2.  Stay hydrated with water.  Cannabis can dehydrate you and cause your mouth to feel dry.  Dehydration may also cause dizziness and increase your risk of a fall, which could complicate any health problems you have.

3.  Use the buddy system and make sure your buddy has tincture of CBD on-hand in case you have a bad reaction to the THC.  Using tincture of CBD sublingually may ease the THC effects if it appears you have taken too much.  However, it will not completely eliminate the symptoms.

4.  It is significantly safer to use legal marijuana which is inspected and analyzed for contaminants, including herbicides and insecticides which may have been used in the growing process.  Illegal marijuana varies widely in the amount of CBD and THC, often contains contaminants, and may even be "enhanced" with illegal narcotics, thus causing patients to consume unknown and dangerous additives.

5.  Work with your doctor, particularly a Medical Cannabis Specialist, when taking marijuana for medical reasons.  Let your other physicians know you are using it, because it could conflict with medications they are prescribing.  

Warning: Marijuana Endangers the Brain Health of Adolescents

While many teens and young adults are enthusiastic about using marijuana, the younger you are and the heavier your use, the more vulnerable you are to cognitive decline over time.  People who are regular, persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline as they move from childhood to midlife, according to an article published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal" October 2, 2012.

In other words, it would be prudent for most teens and young adults to avoid the use of marijuana or cannabis products unless there is a medical reason, such as the presence of seizures.

The bottom line is that marijuana is best used for medical purposes in the elderly, and should be avoided as much as possible by younger people, especially when being used frequently for recreational reasons.

If you are interested in learning more about common medical issues as you age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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