UK trials cannabis spray to manage dementia symptoms

Scientists in the UK have announced a new trial to test the use of cannabis to treat symptoms of dementia.

People with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, specifically aggression and agitation, will be recruited to see how cannabis-based treatment compares with a placebo.

The study team will recruit 60 volunteers with Alzheimer’s disease aged between 55 and 90 years old who are living in residential care.


Volunteers will use the peppermint-flavoured mouth spray containing cannabinoids for four weeks.  

Lead researcher Prof Dag Aarsland said it could be proven as an alternative to anti-psychotics.

“Current treatments for behavioural and psychiatric symptoms of dementia are very limited, and we desperately need to develop alternatives. Doctors sometimes prescribe anti-psychotic medications, and while these drugs can have important benefits, these need to be weighed against the risk of very serious side effects.”

The spray, Sativex, is licensed in the UK for treatment of some MS symptoms but it is not for any other indication. It is also available in Australia as a schedule 8, for the treatment of adults with spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.

If successful, the UK trial will be followed by a much larger study.

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