While he may be known for his love and appreciation of cannabis, Seth Rogen is using his platform to try and give millions of dollars back to something else entirely. The Pineapple Express and Knocked Up star has been working for nearly eight years now to combat Alzheimer’s, including hosting a variety of events to raise money for the cause through his organization, “Hilarity for Charity.” Rogen, who started a cannabis company earlier this year, testified to congress in 2014 that “First I should answer the question I assume many of you are asking, yes I’m aware this has nothing to do with the legalization of marijuana. In fact, if you can believe it, this concerns something that I find even more important.” His most recent one was an adult-only carnival that was themed around marijuana. Comedians and performers lined up the event which saw the money go toward treating and fighting the disease.
What is Hilarity for Charity?
In 2012, Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller Rogen were faced with learning that Lauren’s mother had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. An incurable and terminal illness, Alzheimer’s causes your brain cells to begin to die away, causing memory loss and eventually the deterioration of cognitive function. The most common cause of dementia, there are up to three million cases in America each year. Faced with this situation, Rogen and his wife set out to do what they could to make a difference. Thus Hilarity for Charity was born. In 2012, the first of what would become nearly a dozen fundraising events to raise money was hosted by Rogen and raised $300,000 while featuring Bruno Mars, Aziz Ansari, and Judd Apatow. Through the years, guests such as Mindy Kaling, The Backstreet Boys, Natasha Leggero, Ilana Glazer and more would join the festivities to help raise millions. During this time, Rogen and his group set up a series of programs to help assist Alzheimer’s research and aid, including over $3 million dollars for assistance grants for those living with the disease, young adult education programs and funding for more research. Rogen’s most high profile event to date came in the form of a Netflix special, which gave millions of people around the world the chance to see exactly what Rogen and his group are all about. The 2018 special featured Tiffany Haddish, John Mulaney, Jeff Goldblum, John Kroll, and more performing. This year was the first time a marijuana-themed event was held, marking Rogen’s two loves coming together. With Tony Hawk, Josh Gad, Ilana Glazer, and even more stars joining, the event marked the first carnival hosted by the group in an effort to try and have fun in support of a serious cause. “I think because I felt alone, it was important to create something where young people could feel a part of this disease and feel like they could have a hand in fighting against it,” Lauren Rogen told PEOPLE. “That idea just led to, combined with the fact that Seth is a comedian and I’m kind of funny, it’s just what came naturally to us.” All in all, Hilarity for Charity has raised over $7 million dollars to combat Alzheimer’s since it began.
Alzheimer’s and Cannabis
While only the most recent event was cannabis themed, Seth Rogen’s love of cannabis may actually have a strong connection with his fight against Alzheimer’s. Like most areas concerning cannabis, there is little research on if marijuana helps fight the disease, but what we do know is positive. In 2014, a preclinical trial study was published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease stating that small amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that gets you “high,” can “slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins, thought to be a hallmark characteristic and key contributor to the progression of Alzheimer’s.” By stopping the formation and slowing down the occurrence of toxic amyloid plaques, which are compounds that cause the disease, one of the author’s of the study above said that THC could be a huge help in fighting the disease down the line. “It’s important to keep in mind that just because a drug may be effective doesn’t mean it can be safely used by anyone,” Neel Nabar said. “However, these findings may lead to the development of related compounds that are safe, legal, and useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.” The study went on to present how inflammation in the brain from the disease could be helped by the presence of THC. One of the detrimental effects from the disease is inflammation which causes nerve cells to die in the brain, furthering the effects of the disease. Antonio Currais, a postdoctoral researcher and author on the paper noted that: “Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves. When we were able to identify the molecular basis of the inflammatory response to amyloid beta, it became clear that THC-like compounds that the nerve cells make themselves may be involved in protecting the cells from dying.” Needless to say, more research will need to be done before any conclusions can be made, but that doesn’t make the findings any less exciting going forward. Also being looked into is how cannabis can combat the effects of the disease with some doctors saying that cannabis may be a helpful tool in treating the aggression that many Alzheimer’s patients gain. However, when it comes to cognitive function, marijuana will probably not be stopping Alzheimer’s from existing, in fact, it could make things worse. Dr. Nathan Hermann, who last year presented a study concerning synthetic cannabinoids and aggression in Alzheimer’s patients said, “There is no reason to suspect that cannabinoids would improve cognitive abilities in Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, there is good reason to be concerned that cannabinoids could make cognitive function worse, either by direct effects or by causing excessive sedation.”