Medical marijuana has been used to treat symptoms of many illnesses, but can it be used to treat the illness itself? Recent studies suggest that marijuana may have an impact on the development of Type II diabetes, and potentially even be able to reverse existing cases.
If true, this could mean major changes in the way we treat – and possibly even prevent – diabetes. This article takes a look at these recent studies and considers how marijuana might be used as an additional treatment option in the future.
Facts About Diabetes
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood, but it is becoming more common in children as rates of obesity increase.
People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance, which means that their bodies don’t use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body’s cells use glucose for energy. When insulin resistance occurs, blood sugar levels rise.
Over time, high blood sugar can lead to health problems such as heart disease or stroke. Other conditions related to type 2 diabetes include high cholesterol and high triglycerides. In addition, people with diabetes are at increased risk for kidney disease and nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy).
There are two types of treatments for type 2 diabetes. The first one is oral medications, including metformin, sulfonylureas, meglitinides, and thiazolidinediones. These medicines work by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin or by making the cells more sensitive to insulin.
Another treatment option is using an injectable medication called exenatide (brand name Byetta), which also stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin. It works like insulin injections do, by telling cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream.
It has been approved for use in adults who cannot control their blood sugar well on other diabetic drugs or when diet and exercise aren’t enough. The FDA has not approved this drug for use in people under 18 years old because there haven’t been any studies showing if it’s safe and effective for this age group.
What Causes Diabetes
There are two main types of diabetes.
When the body doesn’t create enough insulin, type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, develops. When the body improperly uses insulin, type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, develops.
Ninety to five percent of all instances of diabetes in the US are type 2, making it the most prevalent kind of condition. Type 2 diabetes risk factors for a person include obesity and inactivity.
But it can’t be cured with diet and exercise alone. To control blood sugar levels, people with type 2 diabetes need to take medications (such as metformin) or take insulin shots. Metformin helps make the body more sensitive to insulin, thereby reducing the amount of glucose that enters cells.
Metformin does not cause weight gain and does not have side effects such as low blood pressure and headaches. People who take metformin may have stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation. Some people experience a metallic taste in their mouth while taking this medication.
Occasionally, some patients develop lactic acidosis–a dangerous buildup of lactic acid–while taking metformin.
How Does Cannabis Help?
Type II diabetes is a condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar, and it can often be managed through diet, exercise, and medication. But what if there was another way to treat diabetes?
Some recent studies have suggested that marijuana may help to treat or even prevent type II diabetes. One study found that cannabinoids, substances found in cannabis plants, could reduce the incidence of diabetes in mice by 56%.
Another study found an association between low doses of THC and reduced levels of fasting insulin as well as improved insulin sensitivity. For now, more research needs to be done on this subject before any definitive conclusions can be drawn about how cannabis helps people with diabetes.
However, one thing is clear: If you’re living with diabetes and want to know more about potential treatment options, it’s important to talk to your doctor. You might also consider making lifestyle changes like eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, reducing stress, and quitting smoking.
All of these things will go a long way towards managing your diabetes symptoms!
The Downsides of Cannabinoids and Their Effect on Blood Sugar
Though there is some evidence that cannabinoids can help regulate blood sugar levels, there are also potential downsides to consider. Cannabinoids can interact with diabetes medications, potentially raising or lowering blood sugar levels.
They can also cause drowsiness and impaired motor skills, which could be dangerous for those with diabetes who need to be able to quickly respond to changes in their blood sugar. Finally, as with any new treatment, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting to use marijuana to treat or prevent diabetes.
Marijuana interacts with other medicines, so the dose may need to be adjusted. The long-term effects of marijuana on the body aren’t fully understood, so there may be risks associated with its use.
There is not enough research to know whether marijuana will help manage type II diabetes in the long term, but more studies are being done. People should consult a doctor before beginning a treatment plan involving marijuana.
However, if you have Type II diabetes and want to explore alternatives beyond medication, speak with your doctor about how marijuana might affect you. Remember that marijuana affects everyone differently, so your experience may vary from someone else’s.
How Else to Use Cannabis to Control Blood Sugar Levels
For example, eating marijuana-infused edibles will last longer in your system but will also produce a stronger high than if you were to smoke or vaporize the plant material. In addition, some methods may be more beneficial for people with different types of diabetes.
For instance, diabetics who experience neuropathy (nerve damage) might want to try using topical ointments and salves that include cannabis. The psychoactive effects of these substances can help relieve pain without adversely affecting insulin production or glucose absorption into cells as much as other methods would.
In fact, THC has been shown to have some hypoglycemic properties. One study found that cannabis was able to reduce postprandial glycemia when used before meals by 16%.