Here is my summary of the articles findings (it’s a bit weighty but please stick with it):
There are 2 main compounds in marijuana (amongst several others) — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — both have different effects in the human body. THC is the ingredient in marijuana that makes you high, THC binds to Cannabinoid 1 receptors (CB1 receptors) in the brain to create a euphoric effect. CBD on the other hand is non-psychoactive, meaning it won’t give you a high. It has little affinity for binding with the CB1 or CB2 receptors, and can actually dampen down THC’s effects when combined (more on this later!). CBD can activate other receptors, such as serotonin, and is more often sought out for its potential medicinal benefits, such as pain and anxiety relief.
The CB1 receptor has proven to be one of the most ubiquitous brain receptors ever discovered: It was found throughout the brains of humans, mice and most creatures, indicating it was involved with virtually everything that happens in the brain.
Research is currently underway in Bonn Germany by Andreas Zimmer using mice dosed on THC:
18 month old mice (equivalent of 70 human years) treated with a steady daily dose of THC have the same mental agility as much younger 2 month old mice. This is remarkable as mice generally start to show steady mental decline from 12 months of age!
The THC has also been shown to reverse cognitive decline in mice treated after they show signs.
Some of the researchers in Zimmer’s lab are so pleased with the results they have encouraged elderly relatives to bake hash cakes and start smoking weed (please see my personal warnings & recommendations on this below).
Recent research conducted on humans (not mice) at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard Medical School-affiliated McLean Hospital, and the University of Colorado, among other places, has already suggested that at least some of the benefits of THC — the component primarily responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects — also accrue in humans’ ageing brains!
Other researchers at Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego and the University of Barcelona have shown that THC clears up some of the tangled brain proteins and clogging plaques that are the biological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. THC has also been shown to reduce inflammation in mouse brains, another physical tag of Alzheimer’s. CBD, THC’s non-psychoactive fellow cannabinoid, also acts as an anti-inflammatory.
In 2000 Zimmer bred mice that lacked the CB1 receptor. In testing them, one surprising change became apparent: the mice soon forgot how to run mazes and became socially inept. “They were going into premature cognitive decline,” says Zimmer’s team member neuroscientist Andras Bilkei-Gorzo. The mice were only 6 months old — equivalent to a human at 35!
Other researchers at the Free University of Brussels and elsewhere were also studying mice bred with no CB1 receptors. But they were coming up with opposite findings to Zimmerman – the mice with no CB1 receptors were smarter than normal mice! It turns out these other researchers were using mice only 6 weeks old — the age equivalent of human teenagers — whilst Zimmerman was using mice at least 6 months old. Further tests at the Zimmer lab confirmed that the elimination of the CB1 receptor tended to dumb down only older mice, not younger ones.
If blocking CB1 sends mice slipping toward dementia ahead of their time, that implies the receptor does something to help older brains delay that decline — which in turn raises the possibility that increasing CB1’s activity beyond normal ranges might be a bigger benefit for older mice. “We thought maybe THC could be a brake on aging of the brain,” says Bilkei-Gorzo [as it increases CB1 Activity by binding to the receptor].
Unfortunately the majority of drugs that work well in mice never prove successful in human clinical trials. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Cannabis (and THC) – many studies over the decades have shown that marijuana appears to work in similar ways in mice and humans. This is good news based on Zimmerman’s findings!
Most Alzheimer’s drugs aim to reduce either the disease’s inflammation, or brain plaques and tangles. But THC seems to attack on all three fronts at once.
But Zimmer believes THC works it’s magic by managing energy expenditure and reducing excess activity in the brain:
In children and teenagers, brains are in the throes of rapid development and change. To help calm things down, the brain’s CB1 system naturally steps up and acts as a brake – thus no external THC is needed for this purpose. The CB1 system naturally slows down brain activity. This may explain why THC could be harmful for young people: The receptor is highly active on its own, and extra THC may overload the brakes and impair development (schizophrenia and anxiety/depression problems faced by young people who smoke cannabis regularly?).
With age, the CB1 receptor slowly loses much of its function, becoming less and less naturally activated. Like an old car driven too hard, too much energy and activity in the older brain may lead to the neurodegenerative effects of aging, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Externally taken THC seems to restore the cautious braking that keeps the brain in good shape!
Zimmer’s mice are treated at doses below any measurable psychoactive effects, suggesting that people wouldn’t have to get high to see the benefits. This tends to suggest that lower THC marijuana would be safest (more on this later).
Staci Gruber found THC-treated older patients improved their performance in a number of cognitive tasks. A study by Johns Hopkins researcher Lauren Hersch Nicholas found older people become more likely to stay employed after medical marijuana becomes legal in their states. The University of Colorado has also been studying older medical marijuana users noting – “…they seem to do a little better cognitively…”. Perhaps that’s one reason people over 65 are the fastest-growing group of pot users in the U.S!
Now, for the older amongst us the above research provides some very promising applications for cannabis/marijuana. Before you go out and purchase some super strong skunk from your local dealer – please watch this Horizon documentary below.
My key takings from it are as follows:
The stronger the cannabis (measured in THC %) the higher the risk of developing psychosis. Most of the weed being sold in the UK now (99%) is super strong skunk weighing in as high as 23% THC. The researchers at Kings college say regular smokers of this super strong weed have a 5 times higher risk of developing psychosis. Contrast this with Hshish or Resin that typically has 4-5% THC and regular smokers of this have the exact same risk of developing psychosis as non smokers (indicating it does not contribute to psychosis).
The best combination of THC versus CBC in cannabis for a real warm and happy (anti anxiety high) is 1:2 or 1:3 which means twice as much CBD to THC or 3 times as much CBD to THC. It seems that the CBD takes the edge off the negative effects of THC whilst enabling a very satisfying and happy high free of anxious thoughts or paranoia. If you are interested in growing your own (and live in a country where it is legal to do so !), check out these seeds on Google which all have a 1:2 ratio of THC to CBD and are very easy to grow (even indoors) being auto flowering – (i) CBD Lemon Potion Auto , (ii) Sweet Nurse Auto , (iii) Fast Eddy Auto , (iv) Industrial Plant Auto.
My personal opinion is that the UK should legalise and standardise marijuana based on the 1:2 and 1:3 THC/CBD ratios identified in the below documentary. The UK is already the largest medical exporter of cannabis in the world. With us leaving the EU it would be a major boost in tax revenues and easily pay for all the money spent so far during Covid-19!