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October 17, 2006 - Mountain View Gazette (CN AB)

Marijuana Slows Alzheimer's Decline

Disease Treatment Gone To Pot

By Kim Dick

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Good news for aging hippies and new age bohemian rhapsodies, marijuana may slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease and may even prevent the disease.

Reportedly the active ingredient in marijuana, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) preserves brain levels of the key neurotransmitter acetylcholine and in turn could protect the brain from the ravages of Alzheimer's.

Funny how a drug that helps you lose your set of keys on a daily basis could prevent one of the leading causes of dementia among the elderly.

Now before you jump up and rummage through your basement to dust off your old bong from your college days it's important to know the facts.

The study released on August 9, by the Scripps Research Institute in the U.S. found that the cholinergic system, the nerve cell system in the brain that uses acetylcholine, as a neurotransmitter is the transmitter most dramatically affected by Alzheimer's disease.

Levels of acetylcholine are abnormally low in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

Now there are four FDA approved drugs that treat Alzheimer's by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for the degradation of acetylcholine.

Lab experiments by scientists at Scripps found that THC appears to block the enzyme in the brain better than the leading FDA approved treatments.

THC not only blocked the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine more efficiently and at lower concentrations than existing drugs, but also blunted the formation of fibrils, long, thread-like fibres that get woven into healthy brain cells.

Now if I lost you in a haze and maze of science and facts, put down that joint and listen up.

Scientists have not done experiments on human cells or even mice yet, so don't donate your brain to free experimental testing yet, but it does, as one journalist put it, hammer another nail into the coffin on Richard Nixon's War on Drugs.

I am not in favour of stopping the fights against hard drugs, alcohol and even nicotine, but I have always felt that stuffing the peace pipe only lead to intense snacking and good conversation.

Beyond recreational use of marijuana, medical marijuana now approved in Canada, can benefit many people who are suffering from chronic illness or debilitating disease.

The Canadian Institute for Health Research (CHIR) Medical Marijuana Research program, started in 1999, identified that marijuana is said to relieve symptoms associated with varied medical conditions.

These include: nausea and vomiting associated with cancer and AIDS therapies; wasting syndrome (to stimulate appetite and produce weight gain in AIDS and cancer patients); multiple sclerosis (relief of muscle pain and spasms); epilepsy (to reduce frequency of seizures); glaucoma (to lower intraocular pressur); and chronic and severe pain due to several medical conditions.

So it's not all lava lamps and psychedelic music - marijuana can be a safe and effective treatment for many Canadians.

I don't know about you, but I would rather see my grandparents smoking a fattie, rather than hopped up on every pharmaceutical under the sun.

The Scripps Institute is not advocating the use of the illegal drug, but they are another contributing factor to the medical advances that look at botanical plants like marijuana which was used for treatment of ailments for thousands of years.

Advancement of western medicine and practice is not the only way to save lives and treat illness, in fact a lot of alternative medicine practices that have been suppressed by western ideology are springing up in subcultures throughout North America, Canada and even in Central Alberta.

I know something is up when my ultra-conservative mother phones me up and asks me if marijuana can help with her menopausal symptoms.

So that is the story; whether you agree with it or not marijuana research continues to prove that it is safe, effective and even preventative.

And hey, if you end up with lung cancer from smoking marijuana, at least you will remember how you got it.

Then you can drop your criminal status and be eligible to use the drug for medical use.

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