Synthetic 'cannabinoid' treatment shown to improve agitation in people with Alzheimer’s disease – Alzheimer’s Society comments

Research presented at Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) today shows that nabilone, a synthetic drug similar to cannabis, has been found to reduce agitation in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers found:

  • Agitation improved significantly amongst people who took nabilone
  • Nabilone significantly improved overall behavioural symptoms
  • Small benefits to cognition and nutrition during the study

Dr Doug Brown, Chief Policy and Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society:

'Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating illness, which slowly strips people of their memories, relationships and identities. A common symptom of Alzheimer’s can be agitation, causing distress to both the person living with the condition, and their loved ones.

'This study looks into a synthetic drug similar to cannabis, nabilone, as a method of calming this agitation. Despite participants being calmer after taking nabilone, the trial medication also had a sedative effect in some participants which needs to be carefully monitored, particularly in people at the  later stages of Alzheimer’s.

'These results suggest that similar medication could help manage some symptoms experienced by people with Alzheimer’s, but there are simply too many unanswered questions for it to be prescribed safely at this stage. We need more trials with more people, before we can be sure that the benefits outweigh the risks.'