Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most researched neural afflictions for its debilitating effects on normal life and severely irreversible impacts. So far, no universally-effective cure has been found; but researchers believe they might just come close to a more comprehensive understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, its causes, and possible prevention and treatment options soon.
According to the latest statistics, there are more than 50 million people affected by Alzheimer’s disease all over the world in 2020. With an alarmingly-troubling rate of increase, it has been predicted that by 2050, the total number of Alzheimer’s patients will cross the 150 million mark. As of now, about 60% of the world population affected by Alzheimer’s disease lives in low to middle-income countries – most rapid growth in China, India, and their South Asian neighbors – which will increase to more than 70% by 2050.
In this article, we are going to evaluate whether cannabidiol (CBD) can salvage Alzheimer’s but before diving into the research findings of CBD’s effectiveness against Alzheimer’s disease, let’s first recognize how the disease affects the brain functions from the onset to gradual, but sometimes rapid, degeneration. Once we understand how the early symptoms manifest themselves, we can assess the prevention and living-with-Alzheimer’s options much earlier.
How Alzheimer’s Disease Develops
Alzheimer’s disease is at the root of dementia which is a brain degeneration disorder affecting vital cognitive functions like memory and problem-solving skills. As the disease progresses, it becomes challenging for the patient to survive on his/her own since basic routine tasks like understanding speech, interacting in social events, making cautious decisions, and remembering names and addresses become perplexingly elusive.
A normal healthy brain weighs about three pounds with a jelly-like texture, but Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to abnormally shrink due to excessive nerve cell death and tissue loss. Currently, the definitive cause of such rapid nerve cell death and tissue loss is inconclusive but neurological studies clearly show certain plaques and tangles are responsible for this kind of brain degeneration.
These plaques are formed by beta-amyloid protein clusters on the cellular level in the brain which seriously restricts critically important cognitive functions like thinking and memory. The tangles are caused due to a lack of a healthy protein called tau which helps to keep the cellular strands straight and tangle-free.
Once tangles are formed, they seriously disturb and gradually terminate the cell signaling and signal coding systems within the brain. This causes destruction in both the mobility of electrical charges within the cells and the behavior of neurotransmitters.
Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s and dementia fatally affect one in three elder adults, according to the latest figures shared by Alzheimer’s Association. This means the mortality rate for Alzheimer’s is more than breast and prostate cancer collectively which makes Alzheimer’s disease 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
With a large majority of the aging vulnerable population living with Alzheimer’s disease going undetected, some key warning signs should not be ignored. The following table shows the key warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease along with their most typical manifestation in the daily lives of patients.
|Loss of both short-/long-term memory like names, appointment dates, etc.|
Reduced Problem-solving Skills
|Difficulty in following instructions, especially numeric tasks like money management and planning ahead.|
Finding Routine Tasks Difficult
|Struggle with driving, doing grocery, understanding rules of games, or handling electronics.|
Dissipated Understanding of Time and Space
|Confusion regarding dates, seasons, thespatial environment can trigger paranoia with severe Alzheimer’s.|
|Determination of distance, colors, and reading becomes challenging.|
Trouble with Verbal Comprehension
|Struggle with both speaking and understanding conversations.|
|Losing or misplacing things and getting lost when traveling on their own.|
Disordered Decision-making Skills
|Serious mismanagement of personal finances, regular upkeep of machines, and hygiene.|
Declining Social Interactions
|Social isolation and indifferent attitude towards family and friends.|
Extreme Personality Changes
|Sudden and abrupt changes in mood and personality traits damage their personal lives severely.|
The earlier these signs are detected and diagnosed, the easier it is to manage Alzheimer’s disease rather than letting them aggravate to severely irreversible stages. There are some free Alzheimer’s warning sign detection tests available online for anyone eager to help themselves or their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s disease undetected.
Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease & the Telltale Signs & Symptoms
There are three distinct stages of Alzheimer’s disease progression in patients, as identified by medical professionals and researchers in the field: mild, moderate, and severe.
1. Mild or early stage
Mild memory lapses can be noticed by the person suffering from the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease but this does not affect their ability to live independently. Some of the mild difficulties may include:
- Inability to remember the appropriate names or words in conversations
- Forgetting the names of people
- Misplacing personal items
- Finding work or social responsibilities challenging
2. Moderate or middle stage
In the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease, all the symptoms experienced in the mild stage become aggravated. Dementia highlights the confusion with their sense of self and makes everyday tasks increasingly challenging. It is helpful for the patient to have some caregiver around them to assist them with day-to-day tasks during the moderate stage challenges. Some of these challenges include:
- Withdrawal from social interactions
- Inability to recall the details of their personal history
- Confused about day and place
- Losing control of their bladder and bowels
- Incapable to decide the right outfit according to climate and social event
- Abnormal sleeping patterns
- Getting lost when traveling alone
- Becoming gradually compulsive and paranoid about people around them
3. Severe or late-stage
Late-stage Alzheimer’s patients cannot survive on their own and need constant help to perform necessary personal tasks. The severe manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Complete abandonment of personal responsibility
- No awareness of time and space
- Lack of communication ability
- Physical vulnerability to diseases, especially infections
- Diminished ability to walk, sit, eat, and going to the loo on their own
It is important to note that the treatment gap in low to middle-income countries where Alzheimer’s disease is rapidly increasing is quite high, as compared to high-income countries with better primary care facilities. This means that three-quarters majority of people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia have never been formally diagnosed for any kind of care or treatment options.
Traditional Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease – Is it Enough?
For quite some time, a certain form of medical assistance has been available to Alzheimer’s patients in the form of medication which temporarily slows down the degenerative process in the brain. Two types of Alzheimer’s medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine. Still, there is no surefire way to prevent or reverse the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, the side effects attached to the regular use of these medications include:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle cramps
- Sudden changes in bowel movements
Considering all this, the search for a better alternative treatment option has never been as actively pursued as it is now. That search leads us to the efficacy of CBD in improving the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients.
How can CBD Salvage Alzheimer’s disease?
As one of the leading alternative medicine candidates, CBD may provide therapeutic benefits against Alzheimer’s disease, according to the World Health Pre-Review Report on Cannabidiol (CBD). Some of the key CBD impacts include:
- Inhibiting neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative responses
Although there is not enough medical research done on the definitive effectiveness of CBD in the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, a study done on mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms demonstrated fewer amyloid clusters in their brains and enhanced learning ability when administered CBD oil.
Clinical Effectiveness of CBD
In other researches on the role of CBD in the nervous system, it was found out that CBD is protective of the neural structure and pathways against neural degeneration, especially in the case of Alzheimer’s disease. The beta-amyloid plaque formation, typical of Alzheimer’s disease, is a source of inflammation and oxidative stress which becomes neurotoxic. As mentioned earlier, the key therapeutic features of CBD being the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties makes it effective against such neurotoxicity.
Further study on mice with cognitive impairments caused by Alzheimer’s disease found out that chronic CBD treatment actually overturned the social recognition alterations. This makes the long-term use of non-psychoactive CBD safer than most other drugs against the neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory impacts of Alzheimer’s disease.
CBD Dosage to Mitigate Alzheimer’s Symptoms
In their book “Medical Cannabis for the Treatment of Dementia: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness and Guidelines”, the authors have discussed at length how CBD interacts with the neurotransmitters of dementia patients with severe neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS). Canadian health care professionals have provided legal options for such patients to consume medical marijuana to mitigate a host of NPS symptoms like:
- Abnormal motor control
- General agitation and irritable mood
- Disturbed sleep cycle
The specific dosage of medical cannabis depends on individual symptoms and the sensitivity of endocannabinoid receptors in the body. A typical dosage may vary from 0.75 mg twice a day to 1.5 mg thrice a day depending on the severity of the patient’s condition.
Another study in Geneva assessing the prescription of THC/CBD-based medication to dementia patients experimented with incrementally increasing the dosage over two months. The average daily oral dosage ranged from 7 mg THC/14 mg CBD and 13 mg THC/26 mg CBD with significant improvements on the neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS).
These clinical studies found that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients have much better tolerance and acceptability for CBD than other pharmacological alternatives with their severe side effects, especially for long-term use. Another study by the National Library of Medicine explored the effectiveness of CBD treatment against social recognition and memory deterioration in mice and found strong evidence for CBD’s potential as a preventative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Self-Care Tips to Ward off the Risk of Alzheimer’s
Research specialists from numerous clinical fields like neurology, neuropsychology, and psychiatry have been striving consistently to demystify the ultimate cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Dr. Bruno Giordani, a professor of neuropsychology at the University of Michigan, has highlighted some basic self-care habits which can effectively protect the brain from degeneration. According to him, five of the most important preventative activities against Alzheimer’s disease are:
- Regular exercise
- Maintaining social and emotional support group(s)
- Carefully retaining optimum health according to age
- A balanced and healthy diet
- Engaging the brain in stimulating tasks constantly
In addition to these habits, the usage of hemp-based CBD oil gel capsules has shown promising results in many clinical studies for its effectiveness in brain tissue stimulation and the ability to even reverse some of the negative impacts of Alzheimer’s disease. There is a strong link between CBD and the suppression of some causal factors of Alzheimer’s disease and we hope the science gets more definitive about it sooner than later.