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There's Hope for Cannabis-Based Alzheimer's Treatments

While pharmaceuticals are ineffective against Alzheimer's disease a researcher in Seattle sees hope in cannabis.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Sadly, there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). It is one of the most debilitating of mankind’s diseases, and for those assisting in the treatment of AD it is also one of the most perplexing.

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The pharmaceutical industry has made valiant efforts to provide AD sufferers with drug options designed to improve their quality of life. In fact, there are now four FDA-approved pharmaceutical drugs available to treat memory loss for AD patients but none is working as designed. The efficacy rates are low. As a result, they are not being rapidly adopted at the clinical level.

Related: Israeli Study Finds Marijuana Has Promise for Treating Autism Symptoms

For the sake of AD sufferers and their families, isn’t it time we investigate cannabis for potential solutions? We could start by acknowledging the groundbreaking work being done in regards to AD by Dr. Ethan Russo, a Seattle-based neuroscientist and the director of research and development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute. By identifying and focusing on the issues that cause AD and treating those issues with different elements of the cannabis plant, Russo is creating what is known as an "entourage effect" with THC is the main component in each patient’s solution, but it can be accompanied by other cannabinoids selectively pulled from the plant, along with naturally occurring and harvested terpenes.

All of these components work together like a symphony, states Russo, “where you might think of THC as the soloist with an important part provided by cannabidiol, but you also have these other components producing a harmony that really increases the overall effect and makes hopefully the best possible medicine.”

Related: Managing Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

The importance of this entourage effect can’t be overstated, especially in the current cannabis business climate where CBD has become the killer app for just about everything. Martha Stewart’s recent entrepreneurial play on the pet CBD scene was seen as a credibility maker for the cannabis industry by a lot of folks and the media. However, her arrival sent shockwaves through those ‘woke’ influencers in the cannabis community who, thanks to recent empirical research studies published by credible research institutions, now understand that CBD minus a THC component is considerably less effective than its marketing claims.

“When CBD is combined with THC [there] is a blunting of the peak high,” said Russo in an interview with Project CBD. “If someone smoked material with both THC and CBD, they’re not going to get quite as high if they would with THC alone. But, much more importantly, the effect is prolonged. In medical settings, this is very important because it allows people to, say, dose with an oral preparation, perhaps two or three times a day, as opposed to smoking medicine where they might have to utilize it every two to three hours because of a higher peak and -- peaks and valleys of activity -- rather than a smoother contour of effect, which is much preferable in a medical setting.”

Could Dr. Russo’s AD research help propel these entourage effect solutions into clinical usage over the top of the current crop of pharmaceutical solutions? If, and/or when that happens, the credibility of both the cannabis and pharmaceutical industries faces a tidal shift, except in this case the cannabis industry will be portrayed as a calm, nurturing wave, whereas the pharma industry will play the dangerous undertow. I personally don’t think the pharma industry predicted in its many models what is to come in regards to cannabis not only penetrating big pharma’s stranglehold on Americans, but replacing it’s synthetic and addictive offerings completely.

Related: Is CBD Better Than Big Pharma? Patients Seem to Think So.

According to Dr. Russo, “it is definitely time to move the effort into the clinical arena. Both THC and CBD have been shown to interfere with the production of abnormal toxic matter in the brains of such patients. This is quite exciting, inasmuch as synthetic drugs designed for similar purposes have yet to advance in the clinic. Both THC and particularly CBD are known neuroprotective agents that hold the potential to slow or perhaps even halt the degenerative process.”

To learn more about Dr. Russo’s work with CBD, THC and the entourage effect as it relates to AD and Parkinson’s Disease, please take a minute to watch the video below. It offers a fascinating discussion full of hope and promise for AD sufferers and their families, all due to the ever-emerging wonders of cannabis and Dr. Russo’s ongoing research.

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