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Marijuana could prevent Alzheimer's

Stephanie Webber

Issue date: 1/27/09 Section: Campus
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A puff a day might keep Alzheimer's away, according to marijuana research by professor Gary Wenk and associate professor Yannic Marchalant of the Ohio State Department of Psychology.

Wenk's studies show that a low dosage in the morning of a certain cannabinoid, a component in marijuana, reversed memory loss in older rats' brains. In his study, an experimental group of old rats received a dosage, and a control group of rats did not. The old rats that received the drugs performed better on memory tests, and the drug slowed and prevented brain cell death. However, marijuana had the reverse effect on young rats' brains, actually impairing mental ability.

Alzheimer's is a disease unique to humans and the memory loss in the rats was a natural decline, but rat brains are similar enough to human brains to serve as partial models for humans, Wenk said.


Research on marijuana as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease began because of the drug's success in slowing progression of multiple sclerosis and reducing patients' pain, Wenk said. Alzheimer's affects a similar part of the brain that MS does.

Other research has shown that young people who take Advil regularly for arthritis, drink alcohol in moderation or smoke cigarettes reduce their risks of developing Alzheimer's as they age, but marijuana is the first substance that has worked on older brains in experiments.

Alzheimer's screening is available for people in their 30s, but it is expensive and many people do not recognize the warning signs. "People get diagnosed [with Alzheimer's] in their 60s, and they need something now," Wenk said.

Separating the benefits of marijuana from the high is a problem the researchers encountered, and Wenk said that it might not be possible. "That poses a problem, because you can't be making people with memory loss high," he said.

Research involving marijuana or any other illegal drug is controversial, and Wenk's findings are no exception. He said it is difficult to get work published, and his findings have received criticism that he is advocating a "stoner life," and praise for contributing to science. MSN, Yahoo and WBNS have all featured his research. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has recently elected Wenk as a fellow for his contributions to Alzheimer's research. "I am God and I am the devil," Wenk said.

Graduate student Holly Brothers, who worked on the research with Wenk and Marchalant, said that the scientific community does have sway on policy makers' decisions on drug use, but it is a slow process. "We accept medical use of cocaine and morphine, which are just as illicit as marijuana and extremely addictive," she said.

The FDA maintains that marijuana has no medical use. Despite this, 13 states have legalized medical marijuana.

Stephanie Webber can be reached at webber.54@osu.edu.
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Viewing Comments 1 - 10 of 36


posted 1/26/09 @ 11:18 PM EST

Legalize marijuana outright. Then people can use it for medicine if that's there choice. We need to stop wasting tax money on enforcing marijuana laws that the vast majority of voters don't want. (Continued…)

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Garry Minor

posted 1/27/09 @ 12:21 PM EST

Archaeological evidence shows that Cannabis is probably the oldest cultivated crop, used by ancient peoples for food, fuel, shelter, medicine, pleasure, and Spirituality from the earliest times. (Continued…)


posted 1/27/09 @ 1:41 PM EST

Cripes! It's "cannabinoid!"

I guess it's true what they said about marijuana impairing the brains of *younger* subjects.


posted 1/27/09 @ 1:41 PM EST

I live in one of the states (CA) that it is legalized for medical purposes and I think that idea should carry nationwide. Why people fear marijuana is beyond me. (Continued…)

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posted 1/27/09 @ 2:19 PM EST

canabanoid NOT canavanoid , at least put the spliff down while writing the article HAHAHA.


posted 1/27/09 @ 3:04 PM EST

Wow, a sudden outbreak of common sense. I like to tell people that if you believe in God, you should favor decriminalization of marijuana. Even poison ivy is not illegal, so why should marijuana be? By making marijuana illegal, you're basically saying that human law is superior to God's creation, which is big time hubris. (Continued…)

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Robert Shay

posted 1/27/09 @ 3:14 PM EST

It's time for America to quit kidding itself. We lost the "war on drugs" years and years ago. Well over 10 billion dollars a year is thrown out the window in trying to enforce drug laws. (Continued…)

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posted 1/27/09 @ 3:29 PM EST

Seperating the medicine from the high has always been the problem, it needs to be scheduled with asprin and tylenol


posted 1/27/09 @ 3:31 PM EST

It's only natural to study a disease unique to humans in a rat model.

rob d

posted 1/27/09 @ 4:25 PM EST

I find it amusing, but not surprising, that human brains and rat brains are similar.

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