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Cannabis could help dementia – ‘Beginning of a new area for clinical medicine’ says doctor

NEW medicines are being developed all the time. But over the last few years, scientists have been shifting their attention to cannabis. While evidence is mounting over the health benefits of cannabis compounds, the wide use of medicinal cannabis is still in the early stages.

When people hear the word “cannabis”, what do they think? Some think of the taste, some think of the smell, some think of recreational use. But more and more, the public are thinking of something else, medicine. spoke to Dr Leon Barron of Alphagreen, one of many in the UK, who think it is time to change our tune on medicinal cannabis.

Mr. Barron is one of many people wanting expansion of the availability of medicinal cannabis. A YouGov poll in 2019 found that 77 percent of respondents supported the legalization of medicinal cannabis. When people talk about medicinal cannabis, they are most often talking about CBD; a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, one of 140 that make up the cannabis plant.

Using cannabis for medicinal purposes is not something new; earlier forms of cannabis were used in multiple countries before the wide politicization of the drug in the 20th Century. Fast-forward to the 21st and the world is rediscovering the health benefits of cannabis, most notably CBD, that Dr Barron says “acts as an immune modulator to fine tune the immune system”.

Dr Leon Barron is a GP based in London, founder of The Primary Care Cannabis Network and an expert on the uses of medicinal cannabis.

He explained: “Cannabidiol is a compound with lots of interesting medical properties and can affect a wide range of internal body systems including sleep, appetite, pain relief, anxiety, inflammation. It acts on a wide range of receptors and can help with a lot of overlapping symptoms.”

Whilst CBD is categorized as a novel food rather than a medicine, it has become widely available in shop around the country to treat anxiety and improve sleep.

Some scientists even say cannabidiol could be used to treat the disease of the moment, COVID-19. This is to do with something known as a cytokine storm that occurs when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive in response to COVID-19. Dr Barron said: “There’s some preclinical evidence and studies that suggests that CBD can actually help to suppress and reduce the release of cytokines.” More research is needed to fully confirm this link

Essentially, there’s some really interesting data that shows that CBD can play a role in this cytokine storm. However, one disease that cannabis could have a profound effect on is dementia. Cases of the neurodegenerative condition are set to rise over the coming decades and Dr Barron says that in Israel they’re “using it in care homes for dementia, they’re running trials on Alzheimer’s disease”.

“There’s loads of interesting data that shows it can have neuroprotective properties. Israel are prescribing it from a few months of age to end of life.” There is growing evidence to suggest that cannabis could be used as medicinal multi-tool for a range of serious conditions; but there are some major barriers in the UK.

For example, while it is available on the NHS, it is exceedingly difficult to get a prescription.

Dr Barron said: “It’s meant that private clinics have appeared throughout the UK which employ specialists and essentially if you have the funds of funds to afford treatment you can access medical cannabis on prescription, but for most these products are unaffordable.”

Campaigners, such as Labor MP Jeff Smith, are trying to increase the availability to medicinal cannabis so that people without the funds to do so, can get the treatment they need.

Medicinal cannabis is exciting, “like the beginning of a new area for clinical medicine,” said Dr Barron, and not just for the potential economic benefit, but because of the lives it could improve and the people it could save.


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