The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

LBD and Marijuana, Part 1

Now that marijuana (MJ) is legal in many states, we are beginning to get questions and comments about its use.

Bottom line, medical MJ is probably safer for the person with LBD than most pain, anxiety, or behavior management drugs and is therefore worth considering. It is not a cure and probably won't work to improve cognition, even short term.

MJ is NOT an anticholinergic. This is perhaps its biggest attraction for LBD families. It doesn't block acetylcholine,  the main brain chemical that LBD attacks. Thus, MJ starts out being more compatible with LBD than many drugs, including most of those for pain, anxiety and psychosis.

But what about MJ's high? Couldn't that cause more problems instead of fewer? Well, it turns out that there are two types of MJ: Recreational and medicinal. MJ is a naturally grown plant, that produces several "cannabinoids" or chemical compounds, the two main ones being THC* and CBD*. In nature, these two compounds balance each other.

  • THC is psychoactive, and can trigger a high, with hallucinations, paranoia and other psychotic behaviors. If a person is already displaying psychotic behaviors, such as hallucinations or anxiety, it may increase them. Although it is only mildly addictive chemically, it can be psychologically addictive. That is, it doesn't change body chemistry to where it requires more and more of the drug to get the same result the way alcohol does. However a person can become psychologically attached to the process of its use and the enjoyment of the high.
  • CBD is an antipsychotic that acts to counteract the high caused by THC. In some cases, it may decrease already present BPSD* such as hallucinations, delusions, depression and anxiety. However, we believe that CBD's value in this area is more about what it isn't than what it is: it isn't psychoactive and it isn't addictive.

Plants can be bred selectively to produce varying amounts of each compound.

  • Recreational marijuana is produced by cannabis plants bred to have such a high ratio of THC to CBD that the latter cannot stop the psychoactive qualities of the drug.
  • Medicinal marijuana is produced by cannabis plants bread to have such a high ratio of CBD to THC that it prevents any psychoactive effects.
  • Marinol, a synthetic marijuana, is mostly THC with no CBD at all.
  • CBD oil is oil made from low-THC, high-CBD plants. So far as we know, there is no straight CBD product. That is not a bad thing. While both THC and CBD act to treat a variety of issues, THC, with its psychoactive qualities buffered, is often the most effective of the two.

Marijuana has long been used as an effective treatment for:

  • Pain, including chronic nerve pain which is common with Lewy body disorders.
  • Poor appetite
  • Intestinal upsets, such as nausea.

Research is showing that it may also be useful:

  • As an anti-inflammatory agent. It appears to block the release of cytokines, substances that signal the production of inflammation. Thus, it may help with autoimmune diseases such as arthritis.
  • To decrease motor symptoms, such as tremor, rigidity and bradykinesia. The research for this is still very limited, but side effects appear minimal and so it might be worth a try. It only treats symptoms--its effect stops when the drug is no long used.
  • For maintaining circadian (sleep) rhythms. CBD works to improve alertness, especially in lighted areas. Medical MJ may help with excessive daytime sleeping, but it should not be taken before bedtime. THC tends to promote nighttime sleep, but medicinal MJ probably won't be effective and the recreational MJ's psychoactive qualities make it a poor choice for someone with LBD.

Next week, more about marijuana, how to find it and how to use it.

Medical cannabis. Wikipedia.

* Acronyms:
MJ: Marijuana, or cannabis. A plant grown for its psychoactive and medicinal qualities.
RMJ: Recreational marijuana
MMJ: Medical marijuana
THC: tetrahydrocannabinol, the cannabinoid or chemical compound in marijuana that provides a high.
CBD: cannabidiol, the cannabinoid in marijuana that does not provide a high.
BPSD: behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia

LBD: Lewy body dementia
PlwD: person living with dementia
PlwLBD: person living with LBD
DLB: dementia with Lewy bodies
PDD: Parkinson's disease with dementia
MCI: mild cognitive impairment
MCI-LB: the form of MCI that precedes LBD

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.


  1. What's the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease?
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    1. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's is one type of dementia. Lewy body dementia is another. There are over seventy different types, but all but a few are rare. Thanks for the question. It will make a good blog subject in the near future!

  2. Thank you for your very timely message.
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  3. Thank you for sharing such a nice information!!!!!!
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  4. I've been trying to find out about the right strain of Marijuana to treat LBD and or Parkinsons. Does anybody know what to ask for? Specifically or in a generally specific way?

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Great! This content is innovative, there are a lot of new concept,it gives me creativity.I think I will also motivated by you and think about more to get a medical marijuana card

  7. Thanks for a wonderful share. Your article has proved your hard work and experience you have got in this field. Brilliant .i love it reading.

  8. Marijuana leaves as well buds have the ability to fight cancer, they work as an antioxidant and have anti-inflammatory properties. Licence to grow Marijuana

  9. In February of 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tested the composition of 22 CBD tinctures, oils, and creams. A majority of the products were marketed to be “100% Pure CBD.” Upon testing, the FDA found that almost all of the products tested did not have the amount of CBD claimed; some products did not contain any CBD, while others contained far less. THC was also present in measurable amo I have smoked their weed.

  10. Good website! I truly love how it is easy on my eyes it is. I am wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your RSS which may do the trick? Have a great day! top dog cbd

  11. Thanks for the share. It's not easy to find information about LBD. My father has LBD for 4/5 years. Like all LBD patients, he was prescribed with a lot of drugs. Although the depression and some hallucination episodes, he is in a stable condition. One of the biggest complains now are the pains he feels in is legs, knees, back,... The drugs don't help in these cases. And my family was thinking in using CBD to help reduce the pain. Because we know the pain will continue to grow in the future. We are conscious about the fact that there is no cure for LBD. But we still believe we can help him to face his disease and to live with more quality and happiness. Do you have any advice or opinion about using CBD in this particular case? Is it safe? Thank you for your help. Kind regards, Felix.

    1. Jim and I don't know much about marijuana...we certainly aren't experts. But what we've learned so far is that it is probably safe to try. Like anyone with LBD, your dad could be sensitive to any drug and so you just have to try it and see. The good news is that there is very little chance that any reaction would be permanent. It would only last as long as the CBD was in his system. But we do know that others have used it for pain successfully even with LBD. Let us know how it works out!

    2. Thank you for you help. Right now we need to collect the most information we can to make sure we are making the right thing. Your opinion will matter too. Of course. I will keep you in touch. Kind regards.

  12. My dad is stage 4/5 of LBD has been using CBD for 18 months to significantly reduce severe psychotic episodes. Prior to using CBD, it was a nightmare of prescriptions that caused his symptoms to be worse. Finally found a neurologist that understands LBD and is supportive of the CBD. No other medications being used. Wish there was more studies and awareness of CBD and LBD.