Updated on August 28, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
If you or someone you care about has Alzheimer’s disease, you may have heard of something called a “violent stage.” This is when patients lash out or get angry or upset for no apparent reason. Although this doesn’t happen to every patient, it can occur during the later stages of the condition.
There’s no cure for this progressive neurological disease yet — unfortunately, there’s not even a treatment that can slow down its progression. As the disease wipes out neuron function, the effects are irreversible. Onset for Alzheimer’s typically occurs after the age of 60 and almost exclusively affects the elderly.
Cannabis is showing great promise as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. It has the potential to treat brain abnormalities, which are the primary cause. However, it’s mainly used to deal with some of the symptoms associated with the condition. The soothing nature of marijuana makes it the perfect way to relax agitation and aggression in Alzheimer’s patients.
No one really knows why Alzheimer’s patients sometimes experience bouts of anger. One moment they seem perfectly calm, and the next they could be hurling insults, cursing, screaming and even throwing things. In some instances, caregivers have experienced violent aggression, where a patient resists them by pushing or hitting.
Aggression doesn’t occur in every patient. However, agitation usually does. It’s important to remember a patient’s aggression and anxiety are not on purpose — they can’t control these feelings and outbursts. There are three main theories about why aggression and agitation occur in Alzheimer’s patients:
1. Feelings of Frustration
As neurological function begins to be affected by the disease, it can cause feelings of nervousness or anxiety. As patients become more confused and their memory declines, this often causes frustration. These feelings lead the patient to feel agitated, which sometimes presents itself through acts of aggression.
2. Personality Changes
The disease itself is thought to cause changes in personality because it causes parts of the brain to shrink, which affects neurological functions like behavior and mood. Irritability, aggression, depression and withdrawal from family and friends are all common side effects of Alzheimer’s.
Even though there’s no apparent cause for aggressive behavior, there are a few things you should be aware of that may trigger agitation:
If your loved one begins acting agitated or aggressive due to Alzheimer’s, here are a few things you can try to help calm them down:
More of the medical community is realizing the potential of cannabis as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. The condition is caused by brain abnormalities. Not only can marijuana slow the formation of these, but it treats many of the symptoms associated with the disease, including agitation.
Medical marijuana is well-known for its tranquilizing effects. Alzheimer’s patients are easily frustrated, which is sometimes caused by pain or difficulty sleeping. Marijuana not only has a calming effect, but it’s also an effective pain reliever and sleep aid. Cannabis can also calm down problematic behaviors in Alzheimer’s patients such as panic, agitation, aggression, violence and irritability.
Some of the best strains known to help with anxiety and give calming effects include:
If you’re interested in using marijuana to treat your loved one’s Alzheimer’s, search our database of doctors to find a physician qualified to recommend medical cannabis. You can also browse our dispensary directory to find a shop that sells cannabis medicine near you.