The world forgetting by the world forgot: Infernal Suffering of the Potless Mind

puzzle-mind-brain-storming-11134568Marijuana is no longer just for the recreational stoners; it seems as though articles proclaiming new medical benefits of this seemingly miracle plant emerge every week. New Mexico’s Medical Advisory Board for the state’s Medical Cannabis Program unanimously voted to add degenerative neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease (AD) to their list of eligible medical conditions for treatment. The possibility of using marijuana as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease may seem counterintuitive, but studies are providing support that say otherwise.

There are so many ways diseases ravage the body, but degenerative neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, destroys the mind. It is as if Alzheimer’s disease possesses the ability to travel through time and erase a lifetime of memories away. Sons, daughters, and grandchildren left completely forgotten; even the closest of friendships relentlessly wiped from memory. Worse still, this disease leaves its victim in an eternal state of confusion and currently has no known cure.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is a degenerative disease that increasingly deteriorates the functions of the brain and worsens as the disease progresses over time. Since there is no current cure, Alzheimer’s disease slowly leads to death; the average life expectancy after diagnosis is only seven years. AD is diagnosed most commonly in people over 65 years of age, however, early-onset Alzheimer’s can be developed at a much earlier age (some as early as 15 years old).

The development of Alzheimer’s may vary among individuals but share a large number of common symptoms such as short term memory loss, stress, and mood swings; other symptoms sometimes include include a lack of appetite and irregular sleeping patterns as well. As a result of these early stage symptoms being ordinarily accepted as a part of aging, very often are they dismissed as “age-related” phases. Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is confirmed through a series of testing that assesses behaviors and cognitive capabilities followed usually by a brain scan, but for a more accurate diagnosis an examination of brain tissues can be performed. Constructing an accurate prognosis of how Alzheimer’s will affect an individual, however, has proven difficult because the disease also differs for every individual. Although, as the disease advances similar symptoms include deeper confusion, irritability, withdrawal from loved-ones and society, and loss of longterm memory. Eventually the disease becomes so destructive that organs slowly deteriorate and bodily functions gradually decline to complete failure, resulting in certain death.

Beta amyloid peptide deposits, the main constituent of amyloid plaques, are claimed to be the central, pathological cause of Alzheimer’s disease. These amyloid plaques are found in the brains of those who suffer from AD; the amyloid plaques are insoluble deposits of beta amyloid peptides around the brain that cause the death of neurons and weakens  inter-neuronal communications. The plaques can be found on multiple parts of the brain but specially prevalent in the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, and amygdala regions early in the beginning stages of development which can explain the behavioral changes and memory loss. Recent studies published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience by Roskamp Institute researchers in Florida have found that cannabis can curb the effects Alzheimer’s has on the body, and potentially cease them indefinitely. Abstract of study:

Emerging evidence suggests beta-amyloid (Aβ) deposition in the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brain is the result of impaired clearance, due in part to diminished Aβ transport across the blood–brain barrier (BBB). Recently, modulation of the cannabinoid system was shown to reduce Aβ brain levels and improve cognitive behavior in AD animal models. The purpose of the current studies was to investigate the role of the cannabinoid system in the clearance of Aβ across the BBB. Using in vitro and in vivo models of BBB clearance, Aβ transit across the BBB was examined in the presence of cannabinoid receptor agonists and inhibitors. In addition, expression levels of the Aβ transport protein, lipoprotein receptor-related protein1 (LRP1), were determined in the brain and plasma of mice following cannabinoid treatment. Cannabinoid receptor agonism or inhibition of endocannabinoid-degrading enzymes significantly enhanced Aβ clearance across the BBB (2-fold). Moreover, cannabinoid receptor inhibition negated the stimulatory influence of cannabinoid treatment on Aβ BBB clearance. Additionally, LRP1 levels in the brain and plasma were elevated following cannabinoid treatment (1.5-fold), providing rationale for the observed increase in Aβ transit from the brain to the periphery. The current studies demonstrate, for the first time, a role for the cannabinoid system in the transit of Aβ across the BBB. These findings provide insight into the mechanism by which cannabinoid treatment reduces Aβ burden in the AD brain and offer additional evidence on the utility of this pathway as a treatment for AD.

The cannabinoid receptors (CB1), referred to as the pathway, are located throughout the brain. Further research by the Neurobiology of Aging believe that focusing on these cannabinoid receptors may hold the key to reversing some of the adverse cognitive effects that Alzheimer’s has on the brain because these receptors are responsible for maintaining multiple cognitive functions. Separate research has also found lower levels of CB1 receptors in people with Alzheimer’s disease, possibly indicating that the lower levels of CB1 receptors could be the natural effect of AD.

Despite all its potential, marijuana testing has yet to be implemented with humans. Gary Wenk, Ph.D, a professor of neuroscience, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State University, was one of the first scientists to suggest that cannabinoids are, “the first and only class of drugs that have ever been effective” regarding the reduction of brain inflammation and restoration of cognitive functionality. Professor Wenk believes that the reason people are still fearful of accepting medicines derived from marijuana is due to the popular, negative reputation associated with the drug, but he remains hopeful that marijuana based medicine will be widely accepted in the future.

It is safe to assume that mostly everyone knows the effects that marijuana has on the body: sense of euphoria, pain relief, increased appetite, drowsiness, etc… These are some of the reasons why it is used to treat chronic pain (no pun intended), anorexia nervosa, and help regulate sleep patterns. Some of which are common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, but despite an increasing acceptance, the use of cannabis is still seen as a taboo by many. This negative perception of cannabis use as an illegal street drug adversely affects those who use cannabis for its therapeutic or medicinal properties.

Those in opposition to marijuana may argue that its legalization could eventually lead to the legalization of harder drugs or all drugs altogether, however, this may be a prime example of the slippery slope fallacy. Other arguments against marijuana include the use of marijuana as morally wrong, increases the risk of drug abuse, makes it more accessible to children, and that second hand smoke causes damages to others. However the same arguments could be said about alcohol and tobacco products. Some religions and beliefs regard any substance that intoxicate the body is prohibited, and any substance (alcohol, cigarettes, pain killers, and even caffein) can result in abuse. Right now anyone with cash on a high school or college campus can find someone who sells marijuana, even though it is not a perfect solution, regulating marijuana like alcohol, could actually make it more difficult for minors to acquire. Some argue that, with regulation and control, the benefits of cannabis outweigh the arguments against it.

Growing up in a house that also ran an elderly care nursing home I saw how morbidly terrible a disease Alzheimer’s actually is. At such a young age I witnessed Alzheimer’s disease relentlessly destroy the health of both grandfather and grandmother figures. I watched as dementia slowly warped the minds of great people. Some would cry as if what remained of their consciousness knew what was happening and was still fighting to hold on. Eventually a perpetual state of confusion possessed them as the last of their memories fell to Alzheimer’s. Their once vibrant eyes became dull and lifeless as the advanced stages of the disease started to take full effect. Even as a child I could see the pain hidden behind the smiles of the sons and daughters as they failed to be recognized by their own parents. Although I was not related to any of them, it hurt me to watch as forgetful behavior evolved into paranoia, insanity, and genuine fear. If anything at all stands a chance at finally conquering Alzheimer’s disease, it needs the full support from everyone that can help. If medical marijuana is found to be successful, it would provide the opportunity for symptom relief as well as maybe one day preventing the disease completely. A stigma should not stand in the way of medical advances especially if that means never allowing Alzheimer’s disease to steal another life.

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