EducationCan CBD help patients with dementia?

Can CBD help patients with dementia?

8 min read

Sam North

Can CBD help patients with dementia?


The term dementia refers to a group of neurological syndromes that all cause a steady decline in cognitive function, affecting memory, thinking, behaviour, emotional control, communication, and movement. Most often impacting individuals over the age of 65, dementia is not a specific disease but, rather, an umbrella term for symptoms that are caused by various disorders.

Alzheimer's disease is the most widespread form of dementia, representing up to 70% of all cases. Other common forms of dementia include vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia. As patients suffering from dementia grow older, they may experience a significant increase in their symptoms, leading to a decrease in their independence and overall quality of life.

There is currently no cure for dementia, but a combination of medication, physical therapy, mental stimulation, and lifestyle changes have been shown to help slow the progression of dementia and help to manage the symptoms effectively. One potential complementary treatment option that has shown promise in recent research is CBD, or cannabidiol

CBD is one of over 110 cannabinoids that have so far been isolated from the cannabis sativa L. genus, which includes both cannabis and hemp varieties. The two major cannabinoids in cannabis are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce any intoxicating effects. Instead, it has been shown to have a wide range of therapeutic properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, neuroprotective, and anxiolytic effects.

In today's write-up, we will explore the potential benefits of taking CBD for dementia and provide dosage and administration tips to help you make informed decisions about its administration. It is important to note that this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before adding CBD to your treatment regimen.

How does CBD interact with the body and brain?

Cannabinoids function by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). While the ECS was only discovered in 1988, it has been extensively research in the years since. It is the most wide-reaching neurochemical system in the body and is constantly working to maintain balance, or homeostasis, within the body.

It controls a wide range of physiological processes, including pain sensation, inflammation, mood, stress response, sleep, and the immune system. The ECS consists of three main components: cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced by the body) that bind to these receptors, and enzymes which break down the endocannabinoids

Cannabinoids derived from cannabis and hemp, such as THC and CBD, share a remarkably similar chemical structure to the endocannabinoids our bodies produce which allows them to interact with the ECS receptors, along with other neurotransmitters in the brain.

THC has a notable attraction to CB1 receptors, primarily found in the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord), as well as certain peripheral tissues. This interaction is accountable for its psychoactive effects, giving rise to sensations of being 'high'

CBD, on the other hand, is believed to primarily interact with CB2 receptors, found predominantly in the immune system. This distinction explains why THC offers both intoxicating properties and therapeutic benefits, whereas CBD does not induce inebriation and solely provides therapeutic effects. CBD has also been shown to:

Is there research to show that CBD helps with dementia?

Research into the potential benefits of CBD for dementia is still in its early stages. However, initial studies have shown promising results.

Before we go any further, it is imperative to point out that there is no current research showing that CBD, or medical cannabis more generally, can reverse the effects of dementia. However, CBD may help manage the symptoms that often accompany dementia.

A recent study on cannabis and dementia control, published in 'Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience' in 2022, provides intriguing insights. Although the study involved a small sample size of only 19 patients who were administered 12.4 mg THC/24.8 mg CBD per day for up to 13 months, it yielded promising results.

The clinical scores showed a significant and consistent improvement over time. Additionally, there were positive outcomes observed in terms of rigidity, care, and behaviour. Notably, the caregivers, who initially had reservations about medical cannabis, expressed appreciation for the enhanced quality of contact with their patients. Families also embraced this alternative treatment option without hesitation, reflecting their enthusiasm and acceptance. The paper concluded that:

"The medical use of cannabis is gaining interest for managing dementia, as cannabinoids have shown potential neuroprotective, antioxidant, immunosuppressive, and anti-inflammatory properties."

Another study, also from 2022, backs up these findings. Conducted in Israel, the trial was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Its primary aim was to assess the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis oil reducing behavioural disturbances in patients with dementia.

In this clinical trial, 60 randomized patients were given a broad-spectrum cannabis oil that contained 30% CBD and 1% THC, or 295 mg CBD and 12.5 mg THC per ml. The results showed a statistically significant difference (double) in the proportion of subjects who had a reduction in agitation scores when compared to the control group, with 60% of the participants showing improvements in agitation symptoms at the four-week mark. Only 30% of the control group showed similar improvements.

This gap widened at the eight-week mark, with 50.0% of the intervention group experiencing improvements, while only 15% of the control group showed improvement.

CBD has also been shown to increase mental clarity at low doses, reduce anxiety in all dose sizes tested, and even boost neurogenesis, all of which are potential benefits for individuals with dementia. These findings suggest that CBD has the potential to improve cognitive function, mood, and overall well-being for those suffering the scourge of dementia

Despite the ever-growing body of evidence showing that CBD has the potential to be beneficial in managing symptoms of dementia, it is worth emphasizing it is currently lacking clinical evidence to support the application of medical cannabis in dementia patients. It is important to highlight the need for further research before drawing any definitive conclusions.

How can CBD be administered for dementia?

The meteoric rise of medical cannabis in the UK has seen significant advances in the ways CBD can be administered. Most people are aware of traditional methods such as vaporising or ingesting cannabis edibles, but these may not be suitable for dementia patients.

Thankfully, there are now alternative methods, such as patches, oils, and capsules, which offer a more convenient and accessible option for those with dementia. These methods are not only easier to administer, but also provide a more standardized dosage when compared to some of the traditional consumption methods.

CBD oil and tinctures can be taken sublingually, which means they are placed under the tongue and absorbed directly into the bloodstream. This method provides a faster onset of effects and better bioavailability, making it an ideal option for individuals with dementia.

For more specific dosage guidelines, it is always best to consult with a medical professional who specialises in cannabis treatment and can provide personalised advice based on the individual needs of each patient. This should be done in conjunction with the current clinical team looking after the dementia patient, to ensure that all medical treatments can work together safely and effectively.

Does CBD come with the risk of any side effects?

As with any medication, CBD may come with potential side effects. However, compared to traditional medications used to manage dementia symptoms, such as antipsychotics or antidepressants, CBD has a much lower risk of adverse effects.

Some patients have reported mild side effects such as drowsiness, dry mouth, and changes in appetite when taking CBD. These side effects are typically temporary and subside with regular use. One thing to keep in mind is that, when ingested orally, CBD may interact with other medications, so it is essential to consult with a medical professional before incorporating CBD into a treatment plan.

Final thoughts

Although the application of medical cannabis, and CBD more specifically, for dementia is still in the early stages, the evidence is leaning towards the fact that CBD may be a beneficial treatment option. With promising research findings, CBD certainly seems to have the potential to improve the quality of life for individuals with dementia and their caregivers. As always, it is crucial to consult with a medical professional before incorporating any new treatments into a healthcare plan. With proper guidance and monitoring, CBD could potentially provide relief for individuals living with dementia.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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