How Marijuana Affects Neurodegenerative Disease

Neurodegenerative disease is a scary topic: a broad cluster of diseases caused by the deterioration of nervous system cells, or neurons, in the brain and spinal cord, which cause problems with coordination, memory, and general functioning. Ultimately, many of these diseases - including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Huntington's - are fatal.

Interestingly, there's mounting evidence to suggest that cannabinoids can have a neuroprotective function, helping the brain consume energy more efficiently. In the future, THC and its analogs could mitigate the effects of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's, which changes the metabolism of glucose in the brain.

According to one led by the Cellular Neurosciences and Biology Center, THC might help with "alleviating symptoms of dementia by boosting cerebral energy metabolism," further "protect[ing] neurons by promoting glucose consumption (energy) by the brain and reducing dependence." Another recent study that "strongly suggest[ed] that THC could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer's disease through multiple functions and pathways."

In addition to its potential in treating Alzheimer's, research published last year by the American Academy of Neurology found a number of cannabinoids demonstrated "probable effectiveness" when it came to relieving the painful spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. According to Leafly, researchers "went so far as stating medical insurance should pay for cannabinoid-derived medications such as dronabinol and nabilone for patients who could benefit."

It's noteworthy that a large number of clinical trials have used synthetic versions of cannabis, like Marinol, since research permissions on the plant, still classified as a Schedule I drug, remains illegal: Hence, cannabis' full potential to treat these diseases remains largely unknown. Given that such ailments could effect an estimated 12 million Americans within the next 30 years, if left unchecked, changes to legislative restrictions can't happen quickly enough.


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