New Research Shows Cannabis May Cure Alzheimer’s Disease

By setting cannabis as a Schedule I drug, the US Government has defined cannabis as having no medical value and acceptable use. Baby boomers in this country grew up in a society which confidently instructed its members that cannabis is wholly bad and use will lead to involuntary addition to harder and harder drugs, brain damage, crippling laziness, an uncontrollable urge to hurt oneself or others, along with a litany of other terrifying outcomes. Without knowledge and understanding of the real effects of cannabis from personal use or through the experience of another, one would be left to wonder why anyone would want to research this seemingly terrible substance. Through the 60’s and the 70’s many Americans came to a more honest understanding of the effects of cannabis through illegal personal use, which wavered through the 80’s, only to be retaught to the masses via the invention of the internet in the early 90’s. Today’s world is in the process of giving cannabis a new fresh look and a second chance, like a person wrongly convicted of a crime.

Baby boomers would be especially interested to hear that research indicates cannabinoids were recently shown to help remove amyloid beta, a toxic chemical precursor associated with the plaque buildup which is a hallmark of alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is defined by Mayo Clinic as “a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. […]brain cells degenerate and die, causing a steady decline in memory and mental function.” In addition Salk Institute scientists found that THC reduced the inflammation of cells caused by amyloid beta, helping the cells to survive and reduce the overall cognitive damage associated with brain cell death caused by Alzheimer’s. These researchers used a petri dish mock-up of the neurons found in the human brain, in which they artificially recreated a Alzheimer’s like condition. When they applied THC to the malfunctioning network they observed “that exposing the cells to THC reduced amyloid beta protein levels and eliminated the inflammatory response from the nerve cells caused by the protein, thereby allowing the nerve cells to survive.” Previous studies have already shown cannabinoids to help remove brain plaque, but this study was a breakthrough in indicating that cannabinoids also in addition help reduce brain inflammation. Raphael Mechoulam discusses alzheimer’s and how cannabis may be helpful in the documentary about him titled The Scientist.

1. Healthy neuron. 2. Neuron with amyloid plaques (yellow). 3. Dead neuron being digested by microglia cells (red)
The stages of Alzheimer’s disease: 1. Healthy neuron. 2. Neuron with amyloid plaques (yellow). 3. Dead neuron being digested by microglia cells (red)

The mechanism by which this activity occurs is in line with our understanding of the endocannabinoid system; a system meant to conduct, balance, and protect us. We naturally manufacture compounds inside our bodies which are nearly identical to the cannabinoids found in cannabis. The Salk scientists were studying a non-cannabinoid pharmaceutical chemical called J147 when they accidentally came to understand the role of the body’s endocannabinoid system in the protection and repair of brain cells. It was this discovery which lead them to ultimately refocus and study THC, which is the cannabinoid analog of our own natural anandamide. Scientists have already known that anandamide facilitates neurogenesis, which is the formation of new brain neuron cells. A simple common sense get check would lead most to make sense of this situation. Our bodies generally get worse at doing their jobs as we get older, so it makes sense that if someone is low in anandamide or other natural endocannabinoids, that may result in brain damage in the form of alzheimer’s. Then by supplementing anandamide with THC, the brain may have the ability to restart its own natural protection and repair mechanisms. Researchers have independently shown that exercise can help prevent cognitive decline, and that the runner’s high associated with long-distance running is caused by the endocannabinoid system. It makes simple sense to me to connect these two research dots, and conclude that supplementing the body with THC has a similar effect as natural anandamide via exercise in preventing cognitive decline and alzheimer’s.

This is not the first time that scientists have found cannabinoids to be neuroprotective. Way back in 2003 the Department of Health and Human Services, on behalf of all United States citizens, was awarded patent 6630507. This patent is for cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants, used to treat ischemic insults or neurodegenerative diseases including alzheimer’s. Specifically this patent mentions non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBD, which does not include THC. The study released by Salk last month specifically focused on THC only. Together these studies offer reassurances to politicians who clamor about how more research is needed before changes can be made to our antiquated laws.

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta, best known as CNN’s chief medical correspondent and the star of CNN’s documentary series Weed, proclaims the obvious irony and contradiction of cannabis having both a Schedule I classification and a patent for acceptable medical use. These two things are directly in conflict, and should be naturally mutually exclusive. Cannabis was made illegal without scientific basis in the 30’s, and today is kept illegal by the catch-22 it is trapped in now. Cannabis is kept illegal because there is a lack of research on the benefits and acceptable medical uses, but that research is lacking due to the dense restrictions surrounding cannabis research because the substance is highly illegal. Furthermore government funded research organizations are specifically and expressly forbidden from researching any benefits of cannabis. A classic catch-22! The occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease is going to skyrocket in the coming years as baby boomers get older. Our government needs to remove barriers to research on cannabis, and offer a means for this treatment to find its way to FDA approval and use by the masses before it is too late. The Salk scientists cautioned that their experiments need to be carried over into full scale clinical trials before their conclusion can be cemented. The lead researching scientist on the Salk study, Dr. David Schubert, noted the effect of the catch-22 of cannabis’s schedule I classification saying, “This makes it almost impossible to do any science. The government doesn’t want to fund clinical trials and drug companies can’t make a profit. Until the social structure changes and the laws change, it’s gonna be difficult to sort this out.”

What do you think the government should do to remove barriers to research on cannabis? Tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook!

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New Research Proves Being Lazy Is Bad For Your Health…But Cannabis Is Not

Recently a group of researchers collaborated to look into the long-term health impacts of cannabis use. Their results reflected a fact that many illegal cannabis users already knew: being lazy may be bad for your health, but cannabis is not. There is a litany of studies which prove what common sense taught most of us, that being lazy is bad for your health. This new research found that the only potential negative impact to cannabis users was a higher risk of gum disease, indirectly proving that being lazy is worse for your health than cannabis. This correlation between cannabis and gum disease may not be so direct in the end, which we will go into more detail on later. At face value this proof directly contradicts the fear Ronald Reagan dumped on America in his heyday in the 80’s when he proclaimed “I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast.” If this were true, 44% of Americans would have had their brains melted, as studies report that percentage of the population has tried cannabis at least once.

An entire generation of politicians shouted the evils of cannabis, most specifically Ronald Reagan, who confidently professed that cannabis kills brain cells. I want to believe that Reagan was not willfully deceiving the American populous, but instead overcome by fear and overly idealistic paternalistic motivations, motivated to protect his fellow citizens from what he perceived to be evil. Reagan withheld the research from which he drew his conclusion for six years, which is no surprise when you understand the quality of the work in question. What came to be known as the Tulane University Monkey Study was totally discredited when it was finally released. Without going into the full details, the study was laughed off the books because it violated the most sacred of the paradigms of scientific study. Simply put, the study did not draw a conclusion which was supported by the methodology and results. The study concluded that cannabis use causes brain cell death, which is not factually accurate. These results were drawn from data collected by “strapping Rhesus monkeys into a chair and pumping them with equivalent of 63 Colombian-strength joints in five minutes. This was inhaled through a gas mask so that none of the smoke was lost.” All this study proves is that carbon monoxide poisoning, or lack of oxygen, causes brain cell death. The scientists who conducted this study did not discuss the effect of carbon monoxide or control the results for its effect. Reagan was plain wrong, cannabis does not cause brain cell death. To the contrary, we as United States citizens all are shared owners in patent 6630507 titled “Cannabinoids As Antioxidants And Neuroprotectants.” This patient states that “cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.” It is painfully heart breaking that Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for nine long years, unwittingly preventing the medicine which could have help him the most. Today in Illinois agitation of alzheimer’s is an approved condition for legal medical cannabis.

Now back to the present and the study released last week. In this study “Researchers from Arizona State University, Duke University and the University of Otago in New Zealand performed a longitudinal study on a group of 1,037 New Zealanders. Starting at the age of 26, scientists tracked the habits and health of the participants from the age of 18 through 38.” So for two decades these individuals were tracked, comprised of a group of tobacco users and cannabis smokers, and their health analyzed and compared to glean understanding about the effects of cannabis use. Not shockingly, the tobacco users were found to have “reduced lung function, poor metabolic health and an increased risk of periodontal disease.” Shocking to those who are reefer madness minded, “scientists could not identify a statistical association between smoking cannabis and any major health problems, except periodontal health.” Those results are clear, cannabis use is not the evil prohibitionists of yesteryear would have us believe. So put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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Before we depart this topic, let’s focus in on the one negative regarding the increased risk of periodontal disease. As High Times discussed, this conclusion may not be crystal clear. This is because researchers were not able to prove that cannabis was single-handedly to blame for the decline in oral health. Before going any farther, let’s just take note that cannabis is known to cause dry mouth, and dry mouth is know to lead to oral health issues. Keep that in mind next time you feel locked to the couch and the kitchen seems just too far away! Proactively staying hydrated is good for your health in too many ways to mention beyond just oral health, so drink up! This study used what is referred to as self-reporting to collect data, meaning the participants filled out questionnaires on their own and then submitted them to researchers. As we all have experienced when visiting the dentist and asked about our oral hygiene habits, we seem to have a tendency to over-report our dental health knowing we fell short, but should have done better. This is why we say yes to the dentist when they ask if we brush and floss regularly, knowing we may not have been good all the time. So if the participants of this study knew they should have been brushing and flossing but were not, they may have mis-reported their frequency in this study in the same way people mis-report their oral health habits at the dentist. This possibility for skew in the data could potentially have masked the truth that it was cannabis smokers poor oral hygiene habits which resulted in the decline of their oral health, not simply cannabis smoking itself.

Furthermore the introduction of tobacco into the mix via the classic European “spliff” (a cannabis cigarette with tobacco mixed in), will further cloud the findings. If spliff smokers report themselves as cannabis smokers only, as they likely see themselves, then they therefore would be improperly classified. It is indisputable that tobacco causes a decline in oral health, so additional research would be necessary to differentiate the influence of tobacco and cannabis in spliff smoker’s oral health. The decline seen in oral health in this study may have been unduly influenced by tobacco hidden inside spliffs. For now it seems this study may potentially indicate that cannabis use causes a higher risk of gum disease, but it is definitely is a great reminder to medical cannabis patients to brush three times and day and floss morning and night!

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