A Toke a Day Might Keep Alzheimer's Away

By Nina Bai | November 24, 2008 6:02 pm

potContrary to conventional wisdom, marijuana may actually fight memory loss, scientists report—but only if taken in small doses amounting to just one puff a day. Researchers tested a compound similar to THC, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana, on rats and found that the chemical reduces inflammation in the brain and promotes the growth of new brain cells. Elderly rats given the compound performed better on learning and memory tasks. “Could people smoke marijuana to prevent Alzheimer’s disease if the disease is in their family? said [researcher Gary Wenk]. “We’re not saying that, but it might actually work” [Telegraph].

In one part of the study, researchers injected the THC-mimicking drug, called WIN-55212-2, into young rats with inflammation in their brains. The drug reduced inflammation. In a second part, the researchers injected WIN into older rats that were then put into a swimming tank with hidden resting spots. The medicated rats were better able to find and remember the resting spots. Dissection of the rat brains revealed not only reduced inflammation but the growth of new neurons. The results were presented at last week’s Society of Neuroscience meeting.

Although the research is far from human trials, the researchers suggest a legal drug similar to WIN could be used to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, which causes chronic inflammation in the brain. The synthetic drug appears to activate three types of neuro-receptors also targeted by THC. However, there are clear differences between WIN and marijuana. Most notably, since WIN lacks other ingredients found in marijuana, it does not produce the same high. While marijuana might also promote the growth of new brain cells, it doesn’t have WIN’s ability to block another brain receptor that appears to cause inflammation, a key difference between the two compounds, psychologist Yannick Marchalant said. [Bloomberg.com].

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says heavy marijuana use impairs short-term recall and quickens age-related memory loss. “Everyone is aware that smoking too much marijuana impairs memory,” said Marchalant. “Our work stays on the safe side — doses that we know are not going to impair memory, but improved it” [Wired Science]. He explained that such a drug would not be effective on the young, whose brains are still forming, or on the old, who are already experiencing the effects of Alzheimer’s. “It’s too late,” he said. “Patients who have been diagnosed have already lost neurons.” A preventive strategy would need to start years earlier, he said [Bloomberg.com].

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Pot Helps an Imbalanced Mind
80beats: Fancy Fingerprinting Can Tell If You’ve Been Misbehaving (by doing such things as smoking cannabis)
Discoblog: Forget About Pot’s Surprising Memory Boost

Image: flickr / nicasaurusrex

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain
  • aj devine

    this is great. now if i could just remember to …….

  • ApaulO

    i read something about this recently, i just can’t remember where…

  • http://DiscoverMag Arnold Slick

    Ro-o-o-l another one. Just like the other one. Come on and be a real friend!!

  • JJMAC

    Legalize Responsible Marijuanna Use

  • http://N/A AC

    Stop the war on our own country! Legalize today and spend the BILLIONS of dollars saved on education and DRUG rehabs.

  • http://N/A AC

    Stop the WAR on our own country NOW! Legalize today and spend the BILLIONS of dollars saved on education and DRUG rehabs.

  • Pat

    Dave’s not here…

  • David Dunn

    Don’t overlook hemp foods. They can have up to .003 THC. When eaten, it increases 5-fold. 5 time .003 = 1.5%. So, eat hemp foods. Industrial hemp plants usually have 1% to 2% THC.

    Hemp creams, balms, soaps, shampoos, conditioners all have THC, usually a little more than the .003 allowable amount in foods. The THC is quickly absorbed via the skin to the cellular level.

    Body Shop hemp products are from France. Supposedly, they contain a little more THC than other hemp products. I would assume that at some point in the process of absorption, THC would also pass through the liver.

    Such hemp products likely would amount to small doses the equivalent of just one puff a day.

    Smoking a joint isn’t the only way to get beneficial amounts of THC into your body.

  • Samantha

    Here is another plant I love that you will never forget about. The TickleMe Plant..it closes its leaves and lowers its branches when tickled.
    It a year round houseplant. http://www.ticklemeplant.com
    A great green gift for scientists of all ages and curious minds…..and it is LEGAL

  • RGA

    I agree with AC, we should be allowed to put in our bodies what we see fit, especially if we grow it ourselves!!! I hope Oboma does the right thing and stops arresting people for cultivating/using this wonderful gift that has been put on our planet. Of course it is a powerful thing and should be respected but not banned.

  • http://www.add1ct.com/Marijuanna.html marijuana

    I’ve been using marijuana for over 30 years on a near daily basis (I’ve stopped when unwell or in hospital). While I can accept it is not entirely harmless, it is far less harmful than many would have us believe. Importantly, for many it can bring enormous benefits – legalise now

  • http://www.add1ct.com dope

    I love drugs but drugs don’t love me. I’ve been busted too many time now so I just don’t touch them any more

  • Reasonisgone

    It is sad that everyone must suffer the consequences of what can only be considered “out-dated, ignorant or just plain foolish perceptions of what we call DRUGS!”

    I clearly understand that most drugs can be dangerous but they are still ALL medicine and not one of them should be “Banned” or made illegal…thats just rediculous!

    If addiction is a disease then why dose society still treat it with such contempt? I am a Chronic Intractable Pain Patient…I live in excrusiating pain EVERY-SINGLE-DAY! I have been treated quite poorly by our healthcare system, our government and by our society! When I say quite poorly I mean “thrown out of hospitals…abused, mistreated, harrassed, under-treated, left completely untreated to DANGEROUSLY withdraw all at once instead of over-time which is the safe way…and on and on…”

    All I know is pain and suffering and have been forced into all of this…IT WAS NOT MY CHOISE TO HAVE THIS DISEASE…yet I have been treated like an addict and even worse by these doctors, nurses and other so-called “healthcare proffesionals!”

    For what? What dose it prove? Is the disease of addiction so completely confused with “Medical Dependence” or the “ABSOLUTE NEED” for medication?

    Normal people, for the most part do not understand these arguments or just consider them irrelavent, yet thier are 76.5 MILLION people in the USA alone who suffer from some kind of daily acute or chronic pain and an estimated 25 MILLION living with Intractable pain like myself….these are NOT small numbers yet we are completely ignored!

    It is a scientific FACT that untreated, constant, severe, pain can drive-up a persons Blood Pressure to the point of even causing HEART ATTACK or STROKE! It is estimated that pain kills more people than alcohol, drugs and cancer combined…more people committ suicide because of unrelieved pain than ANYTHING ELSE, again…for whatever reason we are ignored…just swept under the rug and dismissed like our lives are worth NOTHING!

    So, to get to the point of all this, my question would have to be…”Why are certain benificial medicines BANNED while others are not?” If we are to understand our rights and our freedoms as American citizens than it is against everything freedom and liberty and our very own Constitution to make ANY DRUG illegal, PERIOD!

    It is a completely undermining our rights and freedoms and makes absolutely NO SENSE AT ALL to allow some dangerous intoxicating substances like Alcohol and Morphine while others like Marajuana and even Heroin(which by the way the body converts into morphine once it is injected!)

    It only makes sense to use “Reason” when making laws like this…or for that matter anytime we as individuals or as a society make ANY decisions! We have been stuck behind the “Lesser of two evils” philosophy for far too long and cant seem to decide any more just making everything illegal, giving-up all our freedoms and handing over every hard decision to the government to think for us instead of thinking for ourselves!

    As time moves-on we are only going to find-out more astonishing little uses for the drugs we have made illegal…maybe even cures to some of our most difficult diseases and we will have only ourselves to blame, our own ignorance to blame for tossing these medications to the side because they might make you high!

    What is SO horrible about a drug relieving your stress and pain and giving you a buzz? Isn’t that the whole point of alcohol? Certainly there are no other legitimate medical reasons for keeping that substance legal eccept for getting drunk!

    So frankly it is only logical to start using our reason, or science and of course most importantly our FREEDOM’s to decide what is right and wrong…good or bad…and legal and illegal…NOT EMOTIONS!

    Tragically we have wasted far too much time letting our own suffer horrible, excrusiating pain…even letting our own die in agony for rediculous fears of addiction…a TREATABLE and CURABLE disease! And while we have used stupidity to decide our fate it seems as though every other day we are finding new even more important and benificial reasons to legalize these medicines society “HATES” so much!

    When are we going to see, that there is not future for a humanity that relys on unreasonable and irrational ways of thought to define our lives and determine our fate!

    …we are emerging on the brink of a new age for man-kind! There is simply no time to hold back, no room for ignorance and no way we will survive as a society…as a whole…if we continue to fear our own minds! We must embrace all things the earth and the stars has to offer our us and fear no change in our perception of reality…for what limits humanity is only our perception of what is real and what is impossible!

    C.M. Phillips

  • -M

    -Response to C.M. Phillips’ post-

    I think that C.M. is on the right track, but I also believe that a blanket “anything goes” philosophy isn’t really the way to go.

    The arguments made about marijuana vs. alcohol are definately justifiable. There are just so many more benefits to marijuana than a legal substance such as alcohol, and this has all been proven in many research laboratories around the world.
    I have yet to see ANY studies on the medical, social, or mental benefits of getting hammered, and yet, this substance is available almost everywhere.

    I think that the whole point is responsible enjoyment, or the ‘ol moderation of these types of things.

    However, I completely disagree with the legalization of anything chemically addictive, such as the heroin example used by C.M.
    This drug (and many others) have a proven track record of destroying the minds, lives, and consequently the futures of so many our people, that the war on drugs is entirely justifiable.

    It’s sad that the misguided powers that be lump all substances into the same category, despite hard evidence of the MASSIVE differences, and waste so much of the already limited resources (ie; law enforcement budgets, correctional institutions, etc.) on chasing the purveyors of this substance over the other ones available.

    Privatize, license and tax marijuana the same way that alcohol and cigarettes are sold.
    There is an ENORMOUS amount of money being left on the table by the continued criminalization of this cash crop, not to mention the amount being spent on chasing criminals who are (in a lot of cases) capitalizing on the black market effect.
    The negative image surrounding “drug dealers” is a seemingly accurate one, but ask yourself, if this substance was legal, would there be a need for people in the drug trade to be involved, carry guns and have turf wars over something readily available at your local market?

    As well, couldn’t it be said that the same people who get involved in the drug trade are pretty much in it for whatever they can get? Wouldn’t the decriminalization or even legalization of marijuana have a POSITIVE effect on the war on drugs? (Less illegal drugs = less drug dealers, don’t you think?)

    I also agree with the notion that we should be free to put whatever we’d like (and what, as adults, we make informed decisions on) into our bodies, however, if you choose to put something like heroin, cocaine (and cocaine derivatives), methamphetamines, etc. into your body, then you’re obviously not going to win many arguments on legalization.
    What about the MASSIVE strain that addicts in recovery put on the healthcare system, the methadone clinics and other treatment programs that are a drain on the entire system?
    These are necessary programs that are put in place to help people recover from something that has ruined their lives. How does telling people it’s “ok” and making these incredibly addictive and destructive substances improve our current situation? There’s a MASSIVE difference between marijuana use and chemical drug use.
    I’ve never been approached for change by someone who was “strung out on pot”…..I get approached many times EACH DAY by people who have “chosen” to put other chemicals into themselves.
    We need to protect each other, and our world, and legalizing EVERYTHING in a losey-goosey fashion is simply an ignorant argument on the opposite side of the spectrum as criminalizing everything, and won’t gain ANY of ground that the general populous surrounding this argument would like. Nothing positive can come out of the legalization of street drugs, or just allowing people to put these incredibly destructive and addictive things into their bodies.
    If an opiate is necessary for a medical condition, then that should be prescribed by a TRAINED MEDICAL DOCTOR, who is both conscious and leery of the impending physiological and psychological effects of said prescription.

    I do not believe that the argument can be made about the harmlessness of marijuana use, however, a clear cut distinction between the usage and effects of this substances vs. other legal AND illegal substances can definitely be raised.

    More education and awareness is required, and there can be a “middle ground”.

    Why not chase the actual, substantial evils, and quit wasting time and resources on something that is non-addictive, and has proven medicinal, economic, and social benefits, and take the time to make the distinction between this substance, and the ones that are killing our world?

    -M

  • JP.DeSilva

    I would like to ask C.M Phillips and Mr/Ms.M if i can use their arguements for a Marijuana Legalisation group im making on facebook. email me – unknownterritory@hotmail.co.uk

    Hope to hear from u soon!

  • http://www.smokersworld.info/ Donna

    I thought that marijuana use is the cause of memory loss.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »