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Synthetic Marijuana Eases Alzheimer's Agitation

Study finds calmer patients ease stress for caregivers

THURSDAY, Nov. 20, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Dronabinol, a synthetic version of the active ingredient in marijuana, helps reduce agitation in people with Alzheimer's disease.

So say researchers at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, N.J.

Their Phase II, open label, randomized, parallel-group study of 54 patients also concluded that the reduced agitation experienced by Alzheimer's patients may offer some relief to family caregivers.

"Our results show dronabinol [also known as Marinol] is an effective treatment for behavioral agitation in patients with Alzheimer's and may ultimately help reduce the stress often experienced by caregivers," lead investigator Dr. Joel S. Ross says in a prepared statement.

"While difficult for the patient, the effects of agitation can greatly impact the emotional and physical health of family members and caregivers. By reducing patients' agitation, caregivers are able to focus more time and energy on their patients' overall well being," Ross says.

Agitation affects about 75 percent of people with Alzheimer's and is the most common behavioral management problem in patients with the disease. Agitation can result in symptoms such as physical and/or verbal abusive postures, pacing and restlessness, screaming and repetitive requests for attention.

The Alzheimer's Association reports that nearly 80 percent of caregivers report frequent high levels of stress and nearly half say they suffer from depression.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about Alzheimer's disease and caregiving.

SOURCE: Monmouth Medical Center, news release, November 2003
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