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Cannabis May Be Effective Treatment for Vascular Dementia, Study Finds

Findings in a new study suggest that cannabis could effectively treat vascular dementia, a neurodegenerative condition caused by inadequate blood flow to the brain.

According to a new study, cannabis could be effective for treating vascular dementia, a highly devastating neurodegenerative disorder that often coexists with Alzheimer’s disease.

Vascular dementia is an incurable neurodegenerative disorder caused by inadequate blood flow to the brain. The lack of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, also referred to as chronic cerebral hypoperfusion, causes cells in the brain to die and subsequently leads to cognitive impairment and dementia.

The study, published in National Institute of Health, found that activating CB2 cannabinoid receptors helped recover proper blood flow to the brain and recuperate learning and memory capabilities in animals that had been induced with chronic cerebral hypoperfusion. Administering an agent that activated the CB2 receptors increased brain cell activity and reduced brain cell damage.

One of the major cannabinoids naturally found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), has been found to interact with these CB2 receptors. CB2 receptors, primarily found on cells in the immune system, are one of the two types of receptor sites within the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating an array of bodily processes and functions, including mood, sleep, pain sensation and immune system function.

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The findings in this particular study, conducted by Shalini Jayant and Bhupesh Sharma of Amity University Uttar Prades in India, suggest that cannabinoids like CBD could help in the treatment of vascular dementia through their interaction with CB2 receptors. Cannabis has already shown to be effective at limiting cell damage and providing neuroprotective effects following ischemic events like strokes. Earlier animal studies have found that cannabinoids reduce infarct volume and cell death associated with vascular dementia by interacting with CB1 receptors, a type of cannabinoid receptor that is most prevalent in the central nervous system.

According to Alzheimer’s Association, vascular dementia is considered the second most common cause of dementia, following Alzheimer’s disease, and accounts for 10 percent of dementia cases. The severity of cognitive loss caused by vascular changes can vary widely depending on where in the brain blood flow is reduced. The symptoms, which can include confusion, vision loss, disorientation, trouble speaking, numbness or paralysis, and difficulty walking, are often most noticeable following a major stroke but can also occur gradually following multiple small strokes. Like with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is incurable and most commonly develops in older generations.

Previous findings have already established cannabis as a potential treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease. CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have been shown to lower the high levels of amyloid-beta and reduce the buildup of the plaques and tangles associated with the disease. Findings also show that the cannabinoids enhance mitochondrial function and provide neuroprotective effects to help protect brain health.

Of the 25 states with medical marijuana laws, no states have specifically approved medical cannabis for the treatment of vascular dementia. However, Washington D.C. and several states — CaliforniaConnecticutMassachusettsNevada and Washington — will consider approving medical marijuana for any condition provided it’s recommended by a licensed physician.

You can learn more about the groundbreaking findings of cannabis and its therapeutic benefits on our Overview of Medical Marijuana page.