Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of Dementia – which is a general term for the loss of cognitive functioning, including memory, reasoning, and behaviour that is serious enough to affect everyday life. Alzheimer’s Disease accounts for a round 60-80% of all Dementia cases and most commonly affects people aged 65and over.  

WhileAlzheimer’s is more common among older people, it is not considered a normal part of ageing. Importantly, younger people can also develop Alzheimer’sDisease – this is known as early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Furthermore, the condition worsens over time and leads to a significant reduction in quality of life and is also associated with premature death.  

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease may be associated with a large variety of symptoms; however, the most common include:

·      Increased memory loss and confusion;

·      Inability to learn new things;

·      Difficulty with organisation and logical thinking;

·      Hearing or seeing things that are not there;

·      Disturbed sleep;

·      Difficulties eating and moving around;

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning that symptoms worsen over time. Early symptoms can include forgetting the names of objects or struggling to think of the right word. As the disease progresses, however, symptoms become more serious and can include hallucinations and the gradual loss of speech.

While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is still not completely understood, it is believed to be linked to an abnormal build-up of proteins in and around braincells. This leads to a decrease in neurotransmitters that are involved in sending messages and signals to and from the brain. Over time, Alzheimer’sDisease leads to the shrinking of the brain – particularly areas that are linked to memory.  

This process begins years before patients begin to experience symptoms which makes early diagnosis difficult. Evidence suggests that, while age is the biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s Disease, family history may also play a role. The inheritance of genes may increase a person’s chance of developing the condition, though the additional risk is usually relatively small.

Lifestyle factors that are associated with cardiovascular disease may also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease:

·      Smoking  

·      Obesity  

·      Diabetes

·      High blood pressure

·      High cholesterol

There is currently no cure for Dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease. Most treatment options, therefore, focus on symptom management, slowing the progression of the disease, and increasing quality of life. Several medicines may be prescribed, including Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors – medicines that help nerve cells communicate with one another. Therapy and activity programmes may also be recommended.

If traditional first-line treatment options such as those listed above fail to provide relief, medical cannabis may be considered to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. There is some evidence to support the potential of medical cannabis in improving symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s Disease which may also lead to an improvement in quality of life.  

According to a 2019 report, current evidence suggests that medical cannabis may be effective for the treatment of various common symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, including agitation, aberrant motor behaviour, and nocturnal behaviour disorders, in addition to aberrant vocalisation and resting care.

Our specialist clinicians are experienced in assessing individual cases and helping to determine whether medical cannabis could be an effective option.