The number of people in the United States with dementia has increased to the point where it is now classified as an epidemic. Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the most common forms of dementia and over 12% of Americans aged 65+ are afflicted with it. Almost half the population who are aged 85+ have this condition and overall, dementia accounts for the deaths of one-third of seniors.
The large baby boomer population, coupled with increased life expectancy, means the number of people likely to get dementia is set to skyrocket in the near future. With no known cure, and existing treatment options costing a fortune, people are starting to turn to cannabis for dementia as a treatment option.
What is Dementia?
It is an umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms including memory loss and issues with problem-solving, language, and thinking. Such changes are usually minor to begin with but over time, they become so severe that they massively impact a person’s quality of life.
It is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases such as strokes or Alzheimer’s. Symptoms depend on the parts of the brain that get damaged and the disease that’s causing dementia. In many cases, an individual with dementia will have problems with the following:
- Everyday memory: They struggle to recall events that recently occurred.
Planning, Organizing or Concentrating: In severe cases, a person with dementia is unable to remember the sequence of tasks necessary to prepare and cook a meal for example.
- Language: They are unable to follow a conversation.
- Visuospatial Skills: An inability to judge distances or see objects in 3D.
- Orientation: Difficulty keeping track of the time or their location.
It is normal for someone with dementia to have sudden mood changes and sadly, the condition only gets worse over time. While Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, there are several more including:
- Vascular dementia.
- Mixed dementia.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies.
- Frontotemporal dementia such as Pick’s disease.
- Corticobasal degeneration.
- Progressive supranuclear palsy.
In the vast majority of cases, there is no cure for dementia. The best a patient can hope for is to live a decent life with the condition. The most commonly used drugs for Alzheimer’s patients are galantamine, rivastigmine, or donepezil. They are designed to help with motivation, memory, and concentration to assist the user in daily life. Studies have found that there is an increased risk of death from cardiovascular events caused by excessive sedation. In other words, dementia drugs could kill a person just as easily as help them. This, as well as the high costs, explain why people are turning toward cannabis. Evidence that weed could at least alleviate symptoms helps too, but could it do more?
Is Cannabis for Dementia Effective?
According to researchers at California’s Salk Institute, the answer is an overwhelming ‘YES’. Their study has found evidence that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD could help remove dangerous dementia proteins from brain cells. Professor David Schubert led the study and in early 2017, he spoke of his frustration about the existing anti-marijuana laws that are preventing the plant from being studied in-depth.
In March 2017, he said that he submitted an application to the DEA in December 2016 to use weed extracts on mice for a different study but had received no response. In the study, that was completed, Schubert’s team used a tiny amount of synthetically developed cannabinoids and discovered that they helped with the removal of a harmful plaque associated with dementia. The name of the protein is amyloid beta and the plaque it forms destroys nerve cells in the brain. This led scientists to believe that amyloid beta appears before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Another study, by Aso et al. in 2015, gave mice that showed Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms a THC and CBD combo. They discovered that the mice displayed an improvement in learning skills and there was less evidence of amyloid beta clumps in their brains. The major issue is that there have been no widespread clinical trials to look into the effects of marijuana on dementia in human patients.
The main reason why there could be a link is the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Studies have found that low doses of THC restore memory and learning in mice. The changes occurred because of an impact on the hippocampus but unfortunately, no research exists to study this particular link between cannabis and dementia.
What Are the Best Marijuana Strains for Dementia?
When choosing the best Cannabis Strains for Dementia, bear in mind that sativas are best for daytime use and indica strains help you sleep well without suffering from a heavy drowsy feeling in the morning.
1 – White Russian (The Uplifting Marijuana Strain)
This is a 50/50 hybrid and clocks in at a hefty 25% THC content. It is a cross of AK-47 and White Widow and was created by Serious Seed. White Russian has been around for decades and won the prestigious High Times Cannabis Cup way back in 1996. It is the perfect marijuana strain for anyone suffering from cognitive decline because its strong sativa properties provide you with a mental boost during the day.
However, the indica properties mean you can rely on White Russian to help you sleep at night. Be wary when smoking it because it hits you hard and the effects last for several hours. Its potency means you will feel euphoric quite soon after smoking it and you should be positive and vibrant for hours.
2 – LSD (This is a Marijuana Strain, Not Acid!)
With a THC content of 24%, LSD is a heavy hitter but its CBD content of 5% can help take the edge off a bit. It is a slightly sativa dominant (55%) hybrid and is a cross of Mazar and Skunk #1. LSD is an award-winning strain that was created in Holland and it is known for its ability to transform your mood from negative to positive almost immediately.
Upon smoking LSD, you should quickly experience a mental high that is invigorating yet it also helps calm the mind. We recommend using this strain when you’re unwinding in the evening because after the initial energetic feeling, the indica takes over and induces a soothing body high that makes you want to sleep.
3 – Green Crack (Forget the Name, This Marijuana Strain is NOT Addictive)
Don’t be fooled by the name, Green Crack is the purest of marijuana strains and is a sativa dominant (75%) hybrid. Its THC content ranges from a mild 13% to a strong 21% and it is a cross of Skunk #1 and Sweet Leaf indica. Once upon a time, this strain was named Green Kush but Snoop Dogg renamed it to celebrate its uplifting effects.
It is by far one of the most popular recreational strains on the market but Green Crack is also an outstanding option for Alzheimer’s patients in particular, because it is an effective method of removing harmful amyloid beta plaque. You will feel an initial head high but it doesn’t take long for relaxation to take hold. Even so, it is a great strain to boost your mental powers and is widely used by creative types.
4 – Lavender Haze (The Fragrant Marijuana Strain)
This is an indica dominant (60%) strain with a reasonably strong THC content of 20%. It is a cross of Lavender indica with G13-Haze and this combination of legendary strains works beautifully together. Lavender Haze is best known for two things: Its delightful fresh scent and its balanced effects.
It is genuinely one of the best mood enhancing marijuana strains we’ve tried and dementia patients have reported extremely aware and focused highs. You will be amazed at how focused and motivated you feel after using Lavender Haze. Users typically feel lighter and happier for several hours while retaining their focus.
5 – Acapulco Gold (Mexico’s Finest Marijuana Strain)
As it is difficult to grow Acapulco Gold in America, scarcity only adds to this strain’s appeal. If you love weed, you simply must try this sativa dominant (80%) hybrid because it is regarded as one of the world’s premier examples of a ‘classic’ strain. Acapulco Gold has a THC content of 24% and with minimal CBD to counteract the effects, you will be blown away by this strain.
All it takes is a few puffs and you’ll be overwhelmed by feelings of happiness and euphoria. It is one of the best marijuana strains for socializing and provides users with an energy boost that lasts for hours. Acapulco Gold is one of the favored treatments for dementia because of its capacity to boost your mental powers.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis for Dementia
As things stand, none of the ‘traditional’ dementia treatments come close to offering a cure and do little other than provide temporary relief with a great number of risks attached. Research into marijuana’s effects on dementia is still in its embryonic stages but early signs are good. There is a possibility, albeit a small one, that cannabis could actually reverse the onset of dementia; what an extraordinary discovery that would be.