Cannabinoids and the elderly: Review underlines Parkinson’s and dementia benefits

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Cannabinoids are 'a possible key player in elderly medical care'.
Cannabinoids are 'a possible key player in elderly medical care'.

Related tags Medicine Cannabis

Cannabinoids can be safely used as a supplementary treatment for elderly people with Parkinson’s disease with evidence showing they help reduce tremors, rigidity and pain, a new review reports.

The paper, published in the Israeli Medical Association Journal​, also stated cannabinoid use for elderly people with dementia appeared to be “a safe option”​ for behavioural problems, although the clinical data is still inadequate.

Other conditions for which evidence is scarce include sleep disturbances and weight loss.

“Comprising a large part of the population and an even more prominent proportion of health care consumers, elderly patients constitute a substantial target group for treatment with medical cannabis,”​ wrote academics from several Israel institutions.

“Since medicinal cannabis has shown promise for many conditions that trouble elderly patients, we set out to explore the current therapeutic potential of cannabis in this population."​ 

They argued that current data highlighted its therapeutic potential for Parkinson’s disease patients by targeting the endocannabinoid (eCB) signalling system.

“However, while we acknowledge the beneficial properties of cannabis that are already being utilized in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, it is not without reservation,”​ they added.

“It is our opinion that the ideal therapeutic effect in these patients is achievable only through specific compounds that target selective parts in the eCB signalling system.”

In terms of dementia, the latest data reveals the beneficial potential of cannabinoid treatment mainly for behavioural, agitation and other neuropsychiatric symptoms.

“Based on all the current data it seems that cannabinoids is an efficient and safe therapy to manage behavioural disturbances in dementia patients,​ they added.

Munchies effect

There is insufficient evidence, though, to suggest it can help elderly people suffering from malnutrition and wasting.

The researchers pointed out that although in popular culture cannabis is known for causing the “munchies​” – a sensation of increased hunger following cannabis consumption – clinical trials exploring cannabinoids' beneficial effect on the elderly suffering from cachexia are scarce.

With regard to safety, the paper highlighted a recent systematic review of 260 patients, which concluded that sedation/drowsiness was the most frequent complaint among patients. Importantly, no severe adverse effects were reported.

“The medical literature suggests that cannabinoids have a relatively safe profile for use in geriatrics, with drowsiness being the most common complaint. This safety profile is the core of cannabinoid treatment, making it a possible key player in elderly medical care,”​ the review concluded.


Source: IMAJ

VOL 19, February 2017

“Clinical Evidence for Utilizing Cannabinoids in the Elderly”

Authors: Itay Katz, et al.

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