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Alzheimer’s disease: Could cannabis be an effective treatment?

The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple by 2050

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Alzeimers concept
The condition is thought to affect 35 million people worldwide

The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple by 2050 – but ongoing studies suggest cannabinoids may be an effective treatment.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder defined by a decline in cognitive and functional abilities, which is thought to affect 35 million people worldwide.

Realm of Caring (RoC), a non-profit organisation that focuses on education and access to cannabinoid therapy, is a frontrunner in researching the effects of cannabis on conditions such as Alzheimer’s, as well as discussing options with patients considering cannabis treatment.

RoC recently reported that to date, six clinical trials, in which patients were given THC, have found that the cannabinoid can ease aggression and agitation, two of the defining symptoms associated with the condition.

Alzheimer’s is characterised by the frequent occurrence of neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS), including depression, irritability, aggression, and agitation. These symptoms have been reported to occur in 98 percent of patients, with agitation present in 55 percent of this population at some point in the illness.

The most distinguishing features of agitation include excessive fidgeting, restlessness, pacing, shouting, screaming, and motor activities associated with anxiety, such as hand wringing as reported by RoC.

Common symptoms of aggression include shouting and verbal insults, hitting, biting others, and throwing objects.

The first line of treatment involves non-pharmacological interventions such as person-centred care, structured social interaction, and music therapy. However, due to the complexity of the disease it is unlikely that any one drug or intervention will treat it fully.

Some researchers have suggested that the adverse effects from prescribed medications offset the potential advantages, as efficacy has proven to be limited.

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Researchers on behalf of RoC believe alternative treatments should be available.

“Cannabis research for Alzheimer’s is critical because this disease affects tens of millions of individuals globally, and to date, there is no curative treatment available,” commented Nicolas Schlienz, PhD, research director at RoC.

“Current pharmacological therapies do not reverse the progression, but the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) has emerged as a promising therapeutic avenue due to its ability to modulate the causes and effects of the disease.

“Research has shown that modulation and regulation of the ECS through cannabinoids such as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) offer neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits as well as the ability to reduce excitotoxicity and oxidative stress.”

He added: “Further research is warranted, given the body of preclinical evidence that points to cannabis extracts as being beneficial for slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s and alleviating corresponding symptoms.

“Of the research available, studies suggest CBD as a favourable treatment strategy for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s in providing symptom relief and potential slowing of disease progression.”

With the numbers of patients being diagnosed with the condition rising, more and more individuals are reaching out to RoC for advice and guidance around using cannabis treatment for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions.

“As the stigma lessens, research begins to acknowledge the therapeutic value of cannabis,” Schlienz added.

“At RoC there is one-on-one support for any individual wishing to discover more information about cannabinoid therapy. Our care specialists help to navigate the many options available.

“They can speak in detail about dosing guidelines and how to find a quality product, as well as offer resources such as research articles and guidance on how to talk with your doctor about cannabinoid therapy.”

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RoC always recommends that a licensed healthcare provider should be consulted prior to beginning cannabinoid therapy.

Access support from Realm of Caring here

 

 

 

Beauty & Skincare

95% of patients with rare skin condition report improvements with cannabis topicals

Epidermolysis Bullosa causes severe blistering which can become infected after any trauma or friction.

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Skin condition: A white cream with a green cannabis leaf on top. It is surrounded by dark oil bottles and a spoon that has cream on it. This is on a dark background

A new study of a rare skin condition has revealed that different preparations of cannabinoids could have benefits for patients with painful Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB).

Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) is the name of a group of rare inherited skin disorders that can cause the skin to become fragile.

It is thought to be caused by a gene mutation that makes the skin more fragile and any trauma or friction can cause painful blisters on the skin. There is currently no cure but treatment aims to prevent infection and reduce symptoms.

The study from the Netherlands and the United States analysed EB patients on five different continents who reported using cannabis preparations as a treatment for their rare skin condition.

The data is published in the Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases. The patients reported using topical cannabinoid products in addition to inhaling cannabis flowers. They also consumed cannabis-infused edibles.

Patients were given a survey on their skin condition that focused on monitoring effects including perceived EB symptom changes, medication use, and side effects. 

Skin condition results

Results recorded that 95 percent said the topicals improved their overall skin condition symptoms with 94 percent stating their pain levels were decreased.

A further 91 percent said they had less itching and 81 reported wound healing was improved. Most of the participants at 79 percent said they had decreased their medication for their skin condition. The only side effect with a notable significance was dry mouth at 44 percent.

The authors noted that cannabis improved patient’s “perception of pain, pruritus, wound-healing, and well-being … and reduced concomitant medication use.”

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They wrote that: “Future prospective controlled clinical studies are warranted to elucidate the potential role of CBMs (cannabis-based medicines) in EB treatment.”

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Women's health

Canadian study shows more women using cannabis for menopause symptoms

Researchers analysed responses from 1,500 women living across Alberta

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Richardson: An app with menopause information displayed across the screen has a doctor's stethoscope resting on it.

A new study shows a large percentage of women have tried cannabis to manage their menopause symptoms.

The menopause study aimed to examine the rates and patterns of cannabis use and its perceived effectiveness in managing symptoms.

Researchers analysed responses from 1,500 women living across Alberta of which, 18 percent were in premenopausal, 33 percent were in peri-menopause and 35 percent were in post-menopause. There was also a small percentage that had either undergone a hysterectomy and or bilateral oophorectomy.

The NHS estimates that most people who experience menopause is between 45 and 55 years of age. This occurs when a person’s oestrogen levels decline. The average age for this to happen is 51. Around 1 in every 100 women enter into menopause early before 40 years old. This is referred to as premature menopause.

Common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, low mood, anxiety, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping and reduced sex drive. The average length of time that women can experience menopause is up to four years.

Menopause study results

A study from the University of Alberta in Edmonton Canada shows that one in every three women near the menopause transition uses cannabis for symptom management.

Of the women studied, roughly 33 percent reported using cannabis within the past 30 days. Out of the 499 current cannabis users, 75 percent stated they used it for medical purposes. This included the most common reason, sleep issues at 65 percent, anxiety at 45 percent and joint pain or aches at 33 percent. A further 29 percent reported they use cannabis for irritability and 25 percent for depression. Three-quarters of the current users reported that they found cannabis helpful with their symptoms.

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The most common way to take cannabis was edibles with 52 percent then oils with 47 percent. Just under half of those surveyed said they got their information from internet searches while 34 percent got their information from friends.

Researchers noted that women using cannabis were more likely than non-users to report sleep issues, mood issues including depression, mood swings, irritability and anxiety along with difficulty concentrating or painful intercourse.

Katherine Babyn from the University of Alberta and the first author of the study abstract said: “Our study confirmed that a large percentage of midlife women are using cannabis for symptoms that overlap with menopause, especially those women who reported more symptoms. In addition, many of these women are claiming to get relief for their symptoms through the use of cannabis.”

Dr Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director said: “While we continue to learn that more women are using cannabis to help manage their menopause symptoms, further research is required to assess the safety and efficacy of cannabis for menopause symptoms management.”

The results will be presented as part of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) annual meeting in Washington DC next week. The study was funded by an operating grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

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Industry

Royal Society of Medicine and Integro Clinics announce pain and cannabis medicines event

The event takes place on October 11 from 8:30 to 17:30. It will explore the potential of cannabis medicines in the field of pain medicine in the UK

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Event: The Royal Society of Medicine logo in green and red on a white background

The Royal Society of Medicine has announced a collaborative event, Pain and cannabis medicines: Everything you want to know (but were too afraid to ask) in association with Integro Medical Clinics.

The event takes place on October 11 from 8:30 to 17:30. It will explore the potential of cannabis medicines in the field of pain medicine in the UK

Since the legalisation of cannabis medicines on prescription in November 2018, patients and clinicians alike have been awaiting more data or information regarding these medicines. 

The event aims to provide those attending with a comprehensive understanding of the uses of cannabis medicines and the practicalities of using them in their own practice. It will consist of presentations on the history, regulatory environment and pharmacology of cannabis medicines including the use of different cannabis-based medical preparations in treating pain and related symptoms in a wide variety of clinical fields in the context of the current UK regulatory framework. 

Event presentations

The day will feature presentations from international leaders in cannabis medicines such as Professor Raphael Mechoulam, the chemist who discovered the endocannabinoid system and THC, Dr Anthony Ordman, Leading UK Consultant in Pain Medicine and previous President of the Pain Medicine Section of the Royal Society of Medicine and Dr Arno Hazekamp PhD, who worked as Head of Research and Education at Bedrocan, the first European company to produce EU GMP grade cannabis medicines.  

If you wish to sign up, please click here.

Event speakers
Dr Anthony Ordman, Consultant in Pain Medicine

Event: A black and white headshot of Dr Anthony Ordman Founder of the highly respected Chronic Pain Clinic at London’s Royal Free Hospital, he is one of the UK’s most experienced specialists in the treatment of pain. For his contributions to Pain Medicine, Dr Ordman was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in 2005, and he is the Immediate Past President of the Pain Medicine Section of the Royal Society of Medicine. Dr Ordman is also Senior Medical Consultant and Lead Clinician at Integro Medical Clinics and has a special interest in the potential benefits of cannabis medicines in pain medicine.

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Alex Fraser, Patient Access Lead at GrowPharma

Event: A black and white headshot of guest speaker Alex FraserAlex Fraser is a leading medical cannabis patient advocate. He is a patient himself having been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2010 at 19 years old. In 2014 he founded the United Patients Alliance and has since appeared on mainstream media multiple times, including on the BBC and ITV, to highlight the urgent need for access to cannabis medicines for the many patients who may benefit from them. He has taken delegations of patients to parliament to give testimony to politicians at the highest levels and organised educational events, rallies and protests calling for law change on medical cannabis. In February 2019 Alex joined Grow Pharma, one of the leading suppliers of cannabis medicines in the UK, as their patient access lead. He utilises his extensive knowledge of medical cannabis, his understanding of patient needs and his network in the industry to ensure patient voices are heard and represented. His work includes informing top-level policymakers, educating healthcare professionals and conceiving and running projects that increase general awareness and provide practical help for patients.

Professor Raphael Mechoulam, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel

Event: A black and white headshot Most well-known for the total synthesis of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the discovery of the Endocannabinoid System. Since the inception of his research in the 60s, Professor Mechoulam has been nominated for over 25 academic awards, including the Heinrich Wieland Prize (2004), an Honorary doctorate from Complutense University (2006), the Israel Prize in Exact Sciences – chemistry (2000), the Israel Chemical Society Prize for excellence in research (2009) and EMET Prize in Exact Sciences – Chemistry (2012

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Dr Sally Ghazaleh, Consultant Pain Specialist

Event: A black and white headshot of a guest speakerDr Sally Ghazaleh, is a Pain Management Consultant at the Whittington Hospital, and the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery, London. She qualified from the University of Szeged Medical School, Hungary in 2000, and then completed her specialist training in the Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at Semmelweis University in 2007. She went on a fellowship at University College Hospital, London, to gain her higher degree in Pain Medicine

During her time at the pain management Centre at University College Hospital, she gained extensive experience in dealing with and managing patients with complex multiple pain problems. She is accomplished at a variety of interventional and non-interventional treatments for this specific patient group. Sally specializes in managing patients with lower back pain, neck pain, neuropathic pain, abdominal pain, cancer pain, complex regional pain syndrome, post-stroke pain and Fibromyalgia. She has a particular interest in bladder and abdominal pain in women, and women’s health in general.

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