New research from the Scripps Research Institute in California shows that the active ingredient in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may prevent the progression of Alzheimer's disease by preserving levels of an important neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) which is responsible for learning and memory as well as muscle contractions. The THC found in marijuana works more effectively at preventing the break down of ACh on those with Alzheimer's disease as opposed to the other pharmaceutical drugs currently available on the market for patients.
THC is also more effective at blocking clumps of protein that can inhibit memory and cognition in Alzheimer's patients, the researchers reported in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.
The researchers said their discovery could lead to more effective drug treatment for Alzheimer's, the leading cause of dementia among the elderly.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and irreversible brain disorder characterized by gradual deterioration of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Those afflicted suffer memory loss, impaired reasoning, diminished language, and physical functioning. The ultimate cause of the disease is unknown, though believed to be hereditary.
Possessing marijuana for recreational use is illegal in many parts of the world, including the United States, though some states allow possession for medical purposes.