According to brain experts, cannabis has shown considerable promise for treating the cause of dementia and Alzheimer’s, but federal regulators keep blocking their path toward a cure.
Despite evidence suggesting that chemicals found in cannabis can helpfully clear the brain of buildup that leads to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, ongoing federal opposition to the drug makes the road to finding a cure a long and difficult one, according to researchers. As the Independent reports, scientists at California’s renowned Salk Institute are expressing concern over the fairly unfounded legal hurdles that keep slowing down their work toward an effective treatment for these fatal diseases, which afflict millions of Americans each year.
Last year, the team published study resultsindicating that the active chemicals or cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can effectively relieve the amyloid protein buildup and cell damage related to dementia using some of the brain’s own protective measures. Unlike methods which seek to remove amyloid buildup from the outside of brain cells, CNBC explained, those explored by Salk researchers work with the brain’s natural endocannabanoids, which prevent cell death, to fight buildup inside cells and resulting inflammation at an earlier stage in the disease.
Given the current lack of safe, effective treatments and the overall low cost and often minimal side-effects of in medicinal cannabis, the studies should be cause for celebration among advocates and caregivers for the millions of Americans who suffer from dementia, and for the over five million whose condition developed into Alzheimer’s disease, the most common kind of dementia, and for which fatality rates have risen by over 70% since 2000, CNBC noted.
According to lead author Professor David Schubert, however, these innovative results would seem a lot more promising if researchers’ next steps weren’t already bound up by federal regulation and red tape. “It’s a totally unexplored area, because researchers have been stopped by the DEA, due to the way the agency classifies marijuana,” Schubert told CNBC. “The result is that basically no clinical trials have been held to test the use of marijuana-based drugs in the treatment of Alzheimer’s or any other neurodegenerative disease. It’s not right that they have that type of say over something that could be very useful.” He continued,People are dying of this disease, and there is nothing out there for them… Marijuana is not physically addictive, although it can be psychologically addictive like, sugar, salt and fat, none of which are classified as Schedule I drugs. It’s ridiculous when in California anyone can legally go down to the corner store and just buy marijuana.
Schubert pointed out to CNBC that the pharmaceutical industry, with its extremely healthy lobbying power in D.C., is likely a major force in creating legal hurdles for researchers. “The pharmaceutical companies want to stop the use of cannabis in the research community because it’s a natural product, so it can’t be patented,” he said. “They can’t make money on it, so they are against it.”
CNBC also noted that, while an estimated one in three seniors will die fighting dementia and a new Alzheimer’s diagnosis is delivered every 66 seconds, the costs of holding back effective treatment don’t just involve human life. The site points to a 2015 study by the National Institutes of Health which found that the overall price of late-stage dementia exceeds that of any other disease, and to recent estimates that the economic cost of caring for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients totalled a whopping $236 billion last year. During a dementia-sufferer’s final five years of life, that could easily amount to upwards of $287,000 annually per person.
Drug companies are still pouring time and research dollars into potential treatments for the diseases, of course, but even mainstream, pot-free methods have found little success and been slow in coming. According to Schubert, that’s because pharmaceutical companies are not just trying to prevent cannabis cures, but also on the wrong track for finding their own. “They are trying to use antibodies to get rid of plaque that is outside the cell, but that is too late in the disease,” Schubert said.
However, while our big, highly evolved brains still have ample ways of holding us back, it is thankfully never too late to change the way we offer support to others, be it from research labs or the very law of the land.
Source : The Independent