Medical Marijuana Pills May Not Treat the Behavioral Symptoms of Dementia

First Posted: May 14, 2015 09:05 AM EDT

Medical marijuana pills may unfortunately not help treat the behavioral symptoms of dementia. Scientists have taken a closer look at pills and found that while it may not be effective, the drug dosage in the clinical trial was safe and well-tolerated.

"Our study results are valuable since any firm evidence of the effectiveness and safety of medical marijuana in this disease area is scarce," said Geke A.H. van den Elsen, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Ours is the largest study carried out so far on evaluating this drug for behavioral symptoms of dementia."

In this latest study, researchers randomly selected 50 participants with dementia and behavioral symptoms to receive 1.5 milligrams of medical marijuana or a placebo pill three times a day for three weeks. The pill contained tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main chemical involved n marijuana's psychoactive effects.

In the end, the researchers found that there was no significant difference between the two groups for the participants' quality of life, daily activities or pain-related behavior and pain intensity. This could be due to several factors, including increased attention and support from study personnel for those in the placebo group. With that said, there were no noticeable side effect for the group taking the real pill.

"Since the side effects were mild to moderate, it's possible that a higher dose could be tolerated and could possibly be beneficial," said van den Elsen. "Future studies are needed to test this. A drug that can treat the behavioral symptoms of dementia is much needed, as about 62 percent of dementia patients in the general community and up to 80 percent of nursing home residents experience these symptoms."

The findings are published in the journal Neurology.

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