Well, no one’s quite sure, but what we do know is that it’s the result of the build-up of two types of lesions in the brain: amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. In order to develop the first-ever effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, we’d have to find something that would clear out these lesions…
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is an active compound found in cannabis. Researchers have found that it may help to slow the growth of the amyloid beta protein, which can aid in the progression of Alzheimer’s.
To break it down a bit, cannabis is made up of more than 400 chemical entities, one of which is THC. Compounds that are unique to the marijuana plant are called cannabinoids, and they can be found in the resin that gets secreted by the glands of the plant. THC holds most of the responsibility for the high you get from marijuana.
Another compound found in cannabis called cannabidiol, or CBD, may aid in Alzheimer’s research. In 2004, researchers found that CBD contained neurotoxicity-reducing properties caused by amyloid buildup.
It’s also been found that cannabinoids may help to stimulate the brain’s repair mechanisms; more specifically, the growth of neural tissue in the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain that’s associated with memory.
Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for more than 3,000 years. It’s currently used to help counteract the nausea-inducing effects of cancer treatments, and to increase the appetites of people with AIDS, among many medicinal others.
Despite the numerous studies that have shown that cannabis can be quite beneficial in research and medicine, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to label it a Schedule I drug, meaning it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
There were hopes this past summer that the DEA would finally re-label cannabis a Schedule II drug, but to no avail. The problem is that no studies so far have proven cannabis’ medical efficacy to the federal government’s standards, which, as Vox puts it, might be because the DEA restricts how much cannabis can legally go towards research.
Of course, cannabis isn’t a miracle cure for every medical ailment, as many marijuana proponents like to tout, but it certainly has been proven to aid in slowing the progression of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s.
Legalization, or at the very least re-labeling it to Schedule II, would certainly make it easier for researchers to do their job.