CBD and Dementia
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Over the past several years CBD has grown in popularity because of its many benefits. Some of those benefits include its ability to help with pain management, its effect on anxiety, and its ability to combat inflammation. Many of these benefits are well-known and celebrated, however, CBD has many other lesser-known uses and has the ability to assist with a variety of medical conditions. One such area in that CBD has shown potential is some dementia-related conditions. Though this field of research is still young and requires more substantial evidence, the current literature that is available looks promising. Here’s what you need to know about CBD and Dementia.
What are the most common forms of Dementia and their symptoms?
Dementia is a term used to refer to a host of conditions that share common symptoms including the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions. These symptoms can advance to such a degree that they interfere with the patient’s ability to perform everyday activities. Here are some of the most common types of dementia:
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is believed to be the most common form of dementia among older people. AD begins slowly beginning with the part of the brain that controls thought, memory, and language. At first, people with AD will have difficulty remembering events that occurred recently or the names of people that they know. Over time these symptoms become much worse until they eventually need total care. AD typically affects people over the age of 60.
Vascular Dementia otherwise known as Multi-infarct Dementia is caused by a series of small strokes. It is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease and affects people between the ages of 55 and 75. It is found in men more than it is in women. When a person suffers a stroke, it means their brain has a blockage of blood supply and therefore oxygen. When the brain does not receive oxygen, brain cells die, which causes permanent damage. For a person who has suffered from multiple strokes, there is a high chance that more areas of their brain are damaged. This can lead to Vascular Dementia. Those who smoke, have diabetes, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), hypertension, or have suffered a stroke are at higher risk of developing Vascular Dementia.
Lewy body disease:
Lewy body disease (LBD) is another common form of Dementia that affects the elderly. It occurs when abnormal structures, called Lewy bodies, build up in parts of the brain. In LBD abnormal proteins are diffused throughout areas of the brain, including the cerebral cortex. The brain chemical acetylcholine is depleted which causes a disruption in perception, thinking, and behaviour. They also deplete the neurotransmitter dopamine which can cause symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Lewy body disease can be difficult to diagnose since Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease both have similar symptoms.
Parkinson’s disease Dementia:
Parkinson’s disease Dementia (PDD) can occur in people with Parkinson’s disease. PDD has the potential of affecting memory, language, reasoning, and social judgment. A large percentage of people who have Parkinson’s disease eventually develop Dementia, however, the time of the onset of movement symptoms to the onset of Dementia symptoms will greatly differ from one person to the next. Those experiencing Parkinson’s-related movement symptoms followed by mild cognitive impairment and REM sleep behaviour disorder are at higher risk of developing this form of Dementia.
Frontotemporal Dementia, originally known as Pick’s Disease, described a clinical condition in which the frontal and temporal anterior lobes of the brain shrink. The symptoms of FTD fall into two categories that involve either change in behaviour or problems with language. The first type can include impulsive behaviour, restless behaviour, or feeling bored, and includes inappropriate social behaviour. The person may also exhibit a lack of social tact, lack of empathy, distractibility, agitation, compulsive behaviour, and a decrease in energy and motivation. The latter form of this Dementia features symptoms of language disruption. This includes difficulty speaking or understanding speech and often occurs in conjunction with typical symptoms. There is a strong genetic component to this disease.
Huntington’s disease causes specific nerve cells in the brain as well as the spinal cord to waste away. The signs and symptoms of Huntington’s disease occur earlier than any other form of Dementia — typically in your 30s or 40s. Personality changes such as irritability and anxiety are often associated with this disease. The condition causes a severe decline in cognitive function over time. It also causes weakness and difficulty with mobility.
What are traditional treatments for Dementia?
As you can see, diagnosing Dementia can be a challenge because the doctor must determine the type of dementia that the patient is experiencing. In order to do this, the doctor must determine the pattern of loss of skills and function. Your doctor will review your medical history and conduct a physical exam. They will likely also ask someone who is close to you if they have observed any symptoms or if they can discern any changes in your behaviour. Since Dementia cannot be diagnosed using a single test, your doctor will likely perform a number of tests including cognitive and neuropsychological tests, neurological evaluation, brain scans, laboratory tests, and psychiatric evaluations.
As for treatment — it will vary depending on the condition and its severity. In terms of medication, Dementia cannot be cured but there are options to help manage your symptoms. For instance, Cholinesterase inhibitors, which are primarily used to treat Alzheimer’s but are sometimes prescribed for other kinds of Dementia like vascular Dementia, Parkinson’s disease Dementia, and Lewy body Dementia, work to boost your levels of the chemical messenger responsible for memory and judgement. This type of medication has side effects that can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other potential side effects include a slowed heart rate, fainting, and disruption in sleep.
Another type of medication that doctors can prescribe is memantine which controls the activity of another chemical messenger involved in brain function called glutamate. Sometimes, memantine is prescribed alongside a cholinesterase inhibitor. Those who take memantine report dizziness as a side effect of the medication.
Along with this medication, it is possible that your doctor may prescribe other kinds of medication that target specific symptoms that arise from Dementia to help improve your quality of life. This medication can help to combat conditions like depression, problems with sleep, agitation or anxiety, and hallucinations.
What are the benefits of CBD over traditional treatments and how can CBD help treat Dementia symptoms?
Though there is no known cure for Dementia as of now, there are ways to help ease some symptoms. As was previously mentioned CBD has an array of uses and some of those uses can be helpful to those who suffer from Dementia symptoms. In fact, the topic of CBD health benefits continues to grow as new CBD and Alzheimer’s research emerges. While there is no research that suggests that CBD can stop, slow, reverse, or prevent the disease, some studies suggest that CBD can help manage a few behavioural symptoms of dementia, such as agitation and aggression. As for symptoms related to sleep disruption, preliminary research suggests that CBD can help with a number of sleep disorders including insomnia and REM sleep behaviour disorder.
Oftentimes, CBD is preferred over traditional medication to treat such conditions because it is a natural alternative. As such, CBD has far fewer side effects than most prescription medications. Furthermore, it can be trusted not to include any harmful chemical substances.
Whether you choose to take traditional medication to help with your symptoms or more natural alternatives like CBD, we always recommend you discuss your treatment plan with your doctor. They will be able to advise you on the best options for you given your medical history. If you are interested in CBD, it is recommended that you begin by taking a smaller dosage and then increasing it as you require.
Written by Rahaf Khalil
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