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Cannabis, CBD oil and dementia

Currently there is no evidence to show that cannabis or cannabis oil (CBD oil) can stop, reverse or prevent dementia.

Can cannabis or CBD oil treat dementia or its symptoms?

There are no research studies that prove cannabis, or products such as cannabis oil (CBD oil), can stop, slow, reverse or prevent the diseases that cause dementia.

Some studies suggest cannabis could help to manage a few behavioural symptoms of dementia, such as agitation and aggression.

But more research is needed to understand the long-term effects of taking cannabis, and whether it is an effective and safe way to tackle dementia symptoms.

If you have any questions or concerns about cannabis use and the risk of dementia or other brain disorders, please talk to your GP.

Read our advice to help reduce your risk of developing dementia.

What is cannabis?

Coconut oil and dementia

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a plant. The dried leaves, flowering parts or resin extracted from the plant is taken recreationally.

Cannabis is made up for two main components – Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol.

What is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)?

THC is the main component of cannabis that invokes feelings of sociability, happiness or relaxation.

Products containing more than 0.2% THC are not legally available in the UK.

What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

Cannabidiol or CBD does not cause any psychoactive or intoxicating effects.

Products that contain CBD are legal and can be bought on the high street or online.

Is there any evidence behind the cannabis and CBD oil claims?

There have been no clinical trials on the effects of cannabis or CBD oil in people living with dementia.

In the lab

A key hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease is the build up of clumps of a protein, called amyloid, in the brain. Some studies have shown that components of cannabis, including THC, appear to remove this protein from nerve cells grown in the lab.

Another study that gave both THC and CBD oil to mice with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease showed an improved in learning and had less evidence of amyloid clumps in their bodies.

Research continues to better understand the effects of CBD oil on the brain. Some early evidence suggests that CBD oil may reduce inflammation in the brain, although this has yet to be proven in people.

The truth about clinical trials: 5 big myth busters

Dementia researchers Jason and Harri from UCL

Tackling the symptoms of dementia

Research does suggest that high concentrations of CBD oil could be useful for managing some of the symptoms of dementia such as agitation and anxiety.

A few small clinical trials have assessed the effects of cannabinoids (including THC and synthetic cannabinoids, such as nabilone) on behavioural symptoms of dementia. However, trials and studies so far have generally been small or low quality making it difficult to come to a conclusion.

It is also important to note that the researchers in these studies have used high concentrations of CBD oil that may not be available to buy. These studies have also been short term so we still don’t know what the long term effects of using CBD oil might be.

A study is currently underway at King’s College London that will look at whether a mouth spray containing cannabinoids could be used to reduce symptoms of agitation and aggression in a small group of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Treating and preventing dementia

The jury is still out on whether cannabis or its by-products could be used to treat dementia. A lack of strong research studies mean that dubious and anecdotal reports have taken the place of hard evidence.

No studies or trials have looked into the effects of cannabis or its components on the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease in people.

Whilst the studies in the laboratory show some promise, we need to understand the wider effects that these components have before we can know whether they have any effect – positive or negative – on the development of Alzheimer’s in people.

There is some evidence that heavy, long-term use of cannabis could have a negative effect on our memory and thinking. Much more research needs to be done to tease apart any potential benefits and drawbacks.

It is also worth noting that many of these studies have involved a particular component of cannabis in isolation. Even if one component is found to influence dementia risk, it doesn’t necessarily mean that taking cannabis would have the same effect.

There is also a large amount of variation in the levels of THC and CBD oil in different strains of the plant so the effects could depend on the type of cannabis used.

Has Alzheimer’s Society ever funded research into cannabis and dementia?

Alzheimer’s Society has never funded research into cannabis and dementia risk, or into cannabis as a potential treatment for dementia symptoms.

This is because we have not received any high-quality applications from researchers intending to investigate these issues.

If we received a high-quality application into cannabis and dementia from a researcher based at a UK university, research institute or NHS trust, then we would certainly consider this for funding.

Currently there is no evidence to show that cannabis or cannabis oil (CBD oil) can stop, reverse or prevent dementia.

How Does CBD Affect Our Memory?

CBD has no negative effects on our memory. In fact, it was found to promote neurogenesis, reducing the cognitive damage caused by age, trauma, and memory disorders such as PTSD. Given its broad-spectrum action, could CBD exert positive effects on memory and overall cognition in a healthy brain?

CBD is quickly becoming a vital part of treatment for several conditions, with a sharp rise both in scientific interest and consumption by individuals. Unfortunately, the grey area surrounding its legal status has constrained large-scale clinical research from occurring, which is definitely needed in order to assert with confidence the efficacy of CBD for treating and even preventing diseases.

A recent study conducted by the World Health Organisation found that CBD has almost zero health risks [1] . There is no abuse potential or negative physiological responses with CBD, and it has no negative effects on our memory. That’s good news, considering that its sister THC has a reputation for spoiling frequent users’ short-term memory and cognitive functions. With its promising career in future medicine, one may wonder if CBD could perhaps exert positive effects on our memory. This is not an easy question.


A study on cannabis’ effects on memory confirmed that long-term THC use could actually impact memories, but the consumption of higher levels of CBD may prevent memory impairment [2] and protect some aspects of memory function. On the other hand, a study indicates that even at a ratio of 2:1 CBD:THC, CBD does not attenuate the psychotic and memory-impairing effects [3] of THC in heavy cannabis users.

Recent research shows evidence that CBD exerts some kind of direct action on mammals’ ability to remember and elaborate. A study on rats by the Society for the Study of Addiction found that CBD may attenuate the rewarding effects of addictive drugs in animal models by weakening contextual memories and consequently reducing the craving [4] for psychoactive drugs.

With humans, it’s a bit more complicated. A study titled “The effects of cannabidiol on impulsivity and memory during abstinence in cigarette dependent smokers” found that CBD doesn’t seem to be able to reverse the cognitive impairments associated with nicotine abstinence [5] in heavy cigarette smokers. A few studies, on the other hand, found that CBD can somehow help in diminishing the addiction habits of opioids, cocaine, and other stimulants, tobacco, and even THC-rich cannabis. Addiction is something intrinsically related to memories; namely pleasant memories.

But CBD is able to affect unpleasant memories as well. Several clinical and preclinical reports have widely confirmed that CBD can reduce anxiety [6] and symptoms associated with emotional stress and memory disorders [7] , such as PTSD, also facilitating the removal of traumatic or fearful memories.

Now what about cognitive decline, which is basically memory loss? This is one of the major mental threats for people getting older. Well, there is a small but growing amount of scientific evidence proving that CBD can help the brain and improve memory. CBD was found to promote neurogenesis, thus reducing the damage to cognitive functions caused by age, disease, and trauma. This effect might help people who suffer from degenerative memory disorders; thus, the potential therapeutic properties of CBD for Alzheimer’s disease [8] are currently under intense analysis.

Types of Memory


Current research has made it clear that investigating the effects of CBD on memory is no easy task. And once again, we are in an early stage of both research and personal experimentation. While some studies and many users have suggested that CBD may even improve overall cognition, there is very little evidence for CBD as a memory-enhancer in a healthy brain (assuming a “healthy brain” actually does exist).

That notwithstanding, it is still important that we begin to recognise that cannabis is not simply the memory-impairing drug it’s been labelled as in the past. Conversely, the plant contains compounds that display significant medical potential for brain-related conditions.

Since THC and CBD are being increasingly paired together in different formulations, a greater understanding of their interactions will eventually come to light. At present, it is unclear whether at specific concentrations CBD might counteract the effects of THC on memory and cognition.

Unfortunately, the acute impairments induced by THC on verbal and working memory are proven (or fortunately, because these “impairments” are actually a secondary ingredient in the mix that makes up the recreational user’s desired effect), yet it is unclear whether the impairment persists in the long-term. Regular and heavy use of THC can possibly affect memory somehow, but recent advanced neuroimaging techniques have started to show that heavy cannabis use actually “reconfigures” neural connections, instead of just disrupting them. Is this good? Is it an effect of CBD, or the combination of diverse cannabinoids? One day, science will tell.

CBD was found to reduce the damage to cognitive functions caused by age, disease, trauma, and addiction. Can it also improve our memory?