Introduction: Dementia currently affects over 35 million people worldwide. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease (AD). Currently, treatments for AD do not stop or reverse the progression of the disease and they are accompanied by side effects.
Areas covered: The main features of AD pathology, treatment options currently available, the endocannabinoid system and its functionality in general and its role in AD pathology in detail will be outlined. A particular focus will be on the therapeutic potential of the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol.
Expert opinion: Based on the complex pathology of AD, a preventative, multimodal drug approach targeting a combination of pathological AD symptoms appears ideal. Importantly, cannabinoids show anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antioxidant properties and have immunosuppressive effects. Thus, the cannabinoid system should be a prime target for AD therapy. The cannabinoid receptor 2 appears to be a promising candidate but its role in AD has to be investigated cautiously. Furthermore, the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol is of particular interest as it lacks the psychoactive and cognition-impairing properties of other cannabinoids. In conclusion, future research should focus on the evaluation of the effects of manipulations to the endocannabinoid system in established animal models for AD, combined with early-phase studies in humans.