Cannabis to be used as treatment for dementia symptoms in new UK trial

Researchers at King’s College London have announced that cannabis will be used as an experimental treatment for the symptoms of dementia, in what will be the first major UK clinical trial to treat the disease with the drug.

60 volunteer patients that display symptoms of dementia and Alzhemier’s are to be recruited, with results of cannabis treatment compared to those of a placebo. Most patients will be elderly people who live in nursing or assisted living homes, and all will be between 55 and 90 years old.

Scientist hypothesize that Sativex, a cannabinoid-containing mouth spray that tastes like mint, may be helpful in the reduction of symptoms such as aggression, agitation and paranoia.

Nearly half of all dementia patients in the UK suffer from these symptoms, in addition to confusion, lapses of memory and mood swings.

The project will receive £300,000 from Alzheimer’s Research UK. Volunteers subjects will take the prescribed medicine for four weeks, at which point results will be compared with those who were treated with the placebo.

Sativex is currently licensed in the UK exclusively for symptoms of multiple sclerosis such as muscle spasms. The peppermint-flavoured oral spray contains a 1:1 ratio of cannabinoids THC and CBD, respectively.

If the results of the trial are promising, it may be followed with a larger, more comprehensive study.

There are approximately 850,000 sufferers of dementia in the UK.

“While people most often associate Alzheimer’s disease with memory problems, this is just one aspect of a complex condition that can affect people in different ways,” said psychiatrist and lead researcher Professor Dag Aarsland.

“Many people with Alzheimer’s can become agitated or aggressive, and this can pose difficulties for the person with the condition and those closest to them. Current treatments for behavioural and psychiatric symptoms of dementia are very limited, and we desperately need to develop alternatives.”


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