Anees Bahji, Natasha Breward, Whitney Duff, Nafisa Absher, Scott B. Patten, Jane Alcorn & Darrell D. Mousseau
Published in Journal of Cannabis Research
We undertook this systematic review to determine the efficacy and safety of cannabis-based medicine as a treatment for behavioral, psychological, and motor symptoms associated with neurocognitive disorders.
We conducted a PRISMA-guided systematic review to identify studies using cannabis-based medicine to treat behavioral, psychological, and motor symptoms among individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) dementia, Parkinson’s disease (PD), and Huntington’s disease (HD). We considered English-language articles providing original data on three or more participants, regardless of design.
We identified 25 studies spanning 1991 to 2021 comprised of 14 controlled trials, 5 pilot studies, 5 observational studies, and 1 case series. In most cases, the cannabinoids tested were dronabinol, whole cannabis, and cannabidiol, and the diagnoses included AD (n = 11), PD (n = 11), and HD (n = 3). Primary outcomes were motor symptoms (e.g., dyskinesia), sleep disturbance, cognition, balance, body weight, and the occurrence of treatment-emergent adverse events.
A narrative summary of the findings from the limited number of studies in the area highlights an apparent association between cannabidiol-based products and relief from motor symptoms in HD and PD and an apparent association between synthetic cannabinoids and relief from behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia across AD, PD, and HD. These preliminary conclusions could guide using plant-based versus synthetic cannabinoids as safe, alternative treatments for managing neuropsychiatric symptoms in neurocognitive vulnerable patient populations.