Medical marijuana pills do not help relieve dementia symptoms any better than placebo treatment, researchers in the Netherlands have found, refusing however to draw any conclusions on the drug’s effectiveness until higher doses are tested.
The study published in
the journal Neurology on Wednesday by researchers from Radboud
University Medical Centre concluded there was little benefit in
easing dementia symptoms such as agitation, aggression or
wandering when taking a course of pills containing THC – the main
ingredient found in marijuana.
For three weeks, 50 patients with dementia and without other
illnesses, were given pills daily. Of the group 26 received a
placebo and 24 received 4.5 milligrams of THC. The study was
double-blinded so neither the researchers nor the patients knew
which group was which. Caregivers recorded levels of symptoms
like agitation and aggression in a survey and repeated the survey
after two weeks and then after three weeks and the trials
Researchers analyzing the survey scores noted that patients using
THC and the placebo group showed no statistical difference.
“The improvement in the placebo group was remarkable, as
dementia is a progressive disease,” said Dr. Marcel Olde
Rikkert, who is chair of geriatrics at Radboud Alzheimer Center
and author of the study, according to Health Day News. “The
improvement might have been caused by the fact that the patients
received a lot of support during the study, or to the placebo
The doses are much lower than for someone smoking the drug
recreationally and this had led researchers to conclude that
while the pills were well-tolerated it also seems safe to test
higher doses in future studies, before drawing any conclusions.
Rikkert said the doses in the study were comparable to those used
in other studies which led him to conclude “that former
results were biased by not being strictly blinded or otherwise
“There were no side effects, no ‘high’ feelings, and with
very sensitive gait and balance measure we could only find minor
changes,” said Rikkert.
As increasing numbers of US states are either by laws or ballot
initiatives approving the use of medical marijuana with its many
promises to alleviate suffering from Parkinson’s, HIV/AIDS,
epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, missing are the studies to back
those claims. In the United States as marijuana is still illegal
considered a Schedule A drug along with cocaine, LSD and heroine
under federal laws there are no government funded studies on the
drug, and limited funding available.