Is Medical Cannabis Safe For Dementia Patients?

When we started ElderHealth we knew that one of our most important tenets of care was to meet patients where they were, as well as their goals. We quickly discovered that a lot of our patients were using medical cannabis or were interested in finding out more about it. We hit the books to find out as much as we could in an effort to support our patients. 

While the research behind using medical cannabis to treat dementia behaviors is not as strong as it is for treatment of pain, we believe it is a valid treatment option.  Many of our patients are older adults and many suffer from dementia behaviors such as agitation, anxiety, and depression. While we would love to be able to offer safe, evidence-based medications to manage their symptoms, oftentimes we come up short.

Many of the mediations we use for behavior management in dementia have very troubling side effects, including falls, aspiration pneumonia and even death. We face a conundrum. Do we use medications that may work but have very worrisome side effects, or do we use medical cannabis?

When used in low doses in pill and tincture form, medical cannabis is very safe, and for some, it really works; which is why we are supportive of our patients using medical cannabis to help treat the behavioral symptoms of dementia. Due to the state of the federal ban on cannabis, we don’t yet have the high quality research or evidence we need to be sure that medical cannabis is beneficial for dementia behaviors, but we certainly think it’s worth a try. 

We don’t have any data to suggest that medical cannabis worsens cognition or causes dementia, and the safety profile is favorable when used in low doses under appropriate supervision. An additional benefit of medical cannabis is that it’s an effective pain medication. Untreated pain can worsen the quality of life of patients living with dementia and can increase agitated and aggressive behaviors. 

Our research has taught us that a combination of THC and CBD has the best effect, as the THC helps treat the behaviors and the CBD helps to blunt the neuroactive effects of the THC.

Like with many types of treatments, using medical cannabis is trial and error. We recommend that patients start on very low doses and titrate up slowly, to avoid any untoward effect such as balance disturbance or over sedation. We have found that very low doses of THC, such as 2.5mg, is usually a safe starting point.

When using cannabis for medical uses, we do not recommend smoking it, because of potential issues with lung damage and being unable to track the dose. Instead, we recommend using edible forms, such as candies, gummies, or tincture forms. This allows for easy and reliable dose adjustments. 

We recommend working closely with a budtender at your local dispensary to decide on the best products and doses for your loved ones. In our quest to provide the best care to our patients, we came across Earth’s Healing. A local, woman-owned dispensary. Their friendly and knowledgeable staff are available to help answer any questions you have, and we feel confident in referring our patient’s to them. 

“At Earth’s Healing, our mission is to serve and improve the community through the healing power of mother nature. We accomplish this by providing our patients and customers with quality products, trained knowledgeable staff and excellent customer service. We believe that we can reach our goals by following a common set of values and by staying committed to achieving our mission as a team.”

William Elliott, COO, Earth’s Healing

ElderHealth has no financial relationship with Earth’s Healing.


The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this article are for informational purposes only. No material in this article is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

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