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The Use of Cannabinoids in Treating Dementia

Abstract

Purpose of Review

To review and summarise the current evidence on the safety and efficacy of using cannabinoids to treat behavioural and neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia.

Recent Findings

Two randomised controlled trials testing a synthetic form of tetrahydrocannabinol have shown that while well tolerated, there was no significant therapeutic effect, based on changes to scores on the neuropsychiatric inventory (NPI). Case reports and open label trials have indicated that there may be some therapeutic benefit of adding synthetic cannabinoids as an adjunctive therapy to reduce agitation, aberrant motor behaviour and nighttime behaviour.

Summary

More well-controlled clinical trials in older populations with varying severity of dementia are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of cannabinoids in treating behaviour symptoms of dementia. We provide suggestions for designing such trials and evaluating possible adverse effects of cannabinoids on cognitive and neuropsychiatric functioning.

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Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Wayne Hall.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

Megan Weier receives payments from the Therapeutic Goods Administration to review the evidence on the efficacy and safety of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical use.

Wayne Hall receives payments from the Therapeutic Goods Administration to review the evidence on the efficacy and safety of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical use and is a member of the Australian Advisory Council on Medical Uses of Cannabis.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

Additional information

This article is part of the Topical Collection on Dementia

Appendix 1. Screened references for review

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Weier, M., Hall, W. The Use of Cannabinoids in Treating Dementia. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep 17, 56 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11910-017-0766-6

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Keywords

  • Cannabinoids
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Neuropsychiatric inventory
  • Pharmacotherapies