A 75-year-old man has successfully treated his Alzheimer’s symptoms by using daily microdoses of a THC-rich cannabis extract over a 22 month period, a new case study reports.
The man – who was experiencing memory deficit, spatial and temporal disorientation, and limited daily activity – never used more than 1mg of THC per day to achieve the improvements in his symptoms.
The case provides new evidence that cannabinoid microdosing could be effective as an Alzheimer’s disease treatment while preventing major side effects.
“This is an important step toward dissociating cannabinoids’ health-improving effects from potential narcotic-related limitations,” the authors of the study conclude.
Alzheimer’s disease and current treatments
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease among the elderly. Aging is the main risk factor, and since we have an ageing population, researchers expect Alzheimer’s to be a global epidemic by 2050.
One of the biggest issues is the lack of effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Some scientists even think that Alzheimer’s cannot be fully prevented, slowed down, properly diagnosed, or cured.
Currently, there are two categories of medication approved for Alzheimer’s, which slow disease progression to some degree but do not cure the disease.
The case report, published in Journal of Medical Case Reports, describes how tiny doses of a THC-rich cannabis extract dramatically improved Alzheimer’s disease symptoms in a 75-year-old farmer from Brazil.
After trying a common Alzheimer’s drug and experiencing terrible side effects, the man’s family decided to try a cannabis extract, which they imported as a food supplement.
Scientists tested the extract and confirmed it had a 8:1 ratio of THC to CBD along with trace amounts of CBG, CBN and THCV.
In an attempt to find an optimal dose, the patients tried daily doses between 0.3 micrograms (mg) and 1mg. The most used dose was 0.5mg, which the patient continued to use after the official evaluation and follow-up for the case report ended.
“We tried to titrate the dose up to 1 mg THC, but the most frequent dose was 500 µg THC. The period when the patient was treated with this dose seemed to be the period with higher symptom suppression. This well-known cannabinoid bell-shaped effect was not surprising since it has been previously reported,” the authors report.
The “experimental therapeutic intervention” was introduced two years after the patient was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Over 22 months, the patient’s symptoms were clinically evaluated using Mini-Mental State Examination and Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale.
The results showed that the cannabinoid extract significantly improved clinical scores in both measures. Not only that, symptom amelioration was “rapid” and “robust”.
Additionally, testimonials from patient and caregiver highlight other cognitive improvements. As described by the patient himself:
“I used to feel forgetful, not once after the treatment. Sometimes, I did not know where I was, it has not happened to me anymore. I used to find myself lost on the streets, I could not leave home unassisted; today, I took the bus by myself to perform my clinical evaluation.
“Shortly after the beginning of the treatment, I already felt more alert and excited during daily activities, and I have noticed I have been sleeping much better.”
The reduction in symptoms lasted for the entire duration of the study and during follow-ups more than a year after the official report ended – at that point, 42 months after first using the cannabinoid extract.
Possible ways THC could help Alzheimer’s symptoms
The study authors speculate that the primary beneficial effect of low doses of THC on memory/cognition could be down to the cannabinoid giving a compensatory boost to an ageing-impaired endocannabinoid system.
Lots of studies have reported positive cannabinoid effects on Alzheimer’s disease using experimental in vitro and in vivo models (test tube and animal studies). For instance, cannabinoid treatment has been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, as well as increase the growth of new brain cells.
These effects could play a causative and complementary role in the long-term reduction of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
A study from early 2022 also found that cannabinol (CBN) protects neurons from oxidative stress and cell death, two of the major contributors to neurodegenerative disorders.
The study authors find it remarkable how a dose so low is able to consistently improve cognitive and noncognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Not only did the cannabis extract microdoses substantially improve the patient’s (and his carers’) quality of life, there were no signs of toxicity or significant side effects.
Without this treatment, he would have faced a choice between his disease deteriorating unattended or suffering from the severe side-effects of a medicine that may only slow the progression of his disease.
While the findings of this case study are unprecedented and very encouraging, the limitations of a one-patient case report, without blinding or placebo group, must be considered.
Read the case report here.
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