Medical Marijuana For Glaucoma
Medical Marijuana For Glaucoma
The use of marijuana and its medical benefits has long been a controversial issue. Several states and countries have already recognized its medical use and have made moves for its legalization, but others remain ambivalent and find the legalization debatable due to its pros and cons.
Several clinical trials were conducted and studies are still being made to explore the safety and efficacy of marijuana use for the treatment of several disorders. Currently, the use of marijuana for treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms, neurodegenerative disorders (e.g. Huntington disease, Parkinson disease, Alzheimer’s disease), and other neurological disorders (e.g. Tourette syndrome, Cervical dystonia, Epilepsy) is being continuously studied upon.
In the field of Ophthalmology, marijuana’s role in the treatment of glaucoma has been long discussed and been a subject of studies. Its effects on vision have also been explored.
Getting high on weed
The psychological effects of marijuana are primarily caused by Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychotropic cannabinoid that is the principle constituent of cannabis. It is responsible for the euphoric high that marijuana users experience. The way it is consumed makes a difference on its overall effect. The “high” usually lasts for 2-3 hours if smoked, vaped, or dabbed, and lasts for 4-6 hours or longer if ingested orally.
Does Marijuana use affects vision
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two major cannabinoids found in Marijuana. Research has shown that both cannabinoids act as antioxidants and neuroprotective agents that promote eye health and prevent loss of vision.
Its neuroprotective effect may possibly help to slow down vision loss in degenerative eye conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa. A study also found that both cannabinoids limit the formation of peroxynitrate, thus increasing retinal neuron cell survival.
Several other studies were made to identify whether cannabis is good or bad for the vision. Some aspects of vision were found to be affected in short term basis but long-term effects have not been fully established.
One study explains how marijuana can possibly enhance night vision. It was based on a research done on Jamaican fishermen who were either smoking or consuming marijuana and apparently had excellent night vision. A study based on this research was started, wherein a synthetic cannabinoid was introduced to the eye tissues of tadpoles. Results of the study showed that some retinal cells became more sensitive to light and also improving eye response speed even to dim stimulus.
Another study was made to observe the effect of marijuana use to the retina, specifically on the function of the retinal ganglion cells. The retinal ganglion cell is a type of neuron that is located near the inner layer of the retina. It basically receives visual information from photoreceptors and then transmits this visual information from the eye to the brain. The study compared marijuana users to non-users and the results showed that retinal ganglion cell response time is delayed for those who were using marijuana.
Smoking Marijuana for the treatment of Glaucoma
Glaucoma is an eye condition that is associated with increased eye pressure. The increase in IOP (intraocular pressure) damages the optic nerve over time causing reduced peripheral vision and may eventually lead to blindness if left untreated or uncontrolled. In order to control glaucoma and to prevent loss of vision, IOP should be lowered and maintained within normal range. Prescription medications or surgery can help with the treatment of glaucoma.
Back in the 70s, it was believed that we can use marijuana to treat glaucoma. Studies have shown that smoking marijuana can lower the intraocular pressure. Additional studies were done to confirm long-term effects. It was found that the use of marijuana whether by smoking, ingesting or injection, does lower the intraocular pressure but only for a short period of time. The effect of marijuana or its active ingredient Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on the intraocular pressure lasts for up to 3 to 4 hours only.
Glaucoma needs to be managed round the clock. In order to benefit from the IOP-lowering effect of marijuana, one has to smoke marijuana for at least 6 times a day to keep the IOP in control which can be detrimental in the long run due to marijuana’s effects in the body systems. The use of marijuana at this rate on a daily basis can impair activities of daily living.
In conclusion, the use of marijuana for the treatment of glaucoma is not recommended. There is no scientific evidence of its long-term efficacy. The use of glaucoma eye drops and surgical management are safer and proven to be more effective options for the treatment of glaucoma.
Also, as studies in glaucoma were advancing, it was found out that the IOP is not the only factor to be considered in glaucoma. Studies have shown that reduced blood flow to the optic nerve plays a big role in glaucoma patients. Unfortunately, marijuana lowers the blood pressure too which gives the possibility of lowering the blood flow to the optic nerve.
Smoking also causes many other negative effects on the body negating any possible effect on the eyes.
Chronic use of marijuana can significantly affect memory, coordination and cognition. Smoking has also been found to increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 2 to 3 times.
Precautions in the use of medical marijuana
The use of medical marijuana can significantly improve the quality of life of people suffering from several conditions especially under a controlled system. There’s no denying that addiction is a major drawback in the use of marijuana. Its medical implications have its limits too.
It is advised to talk to a medical professional before deciding to use marijuana as an alternative therapy. Pros and cons should be fully discussed and understood. Though marijuana is a natural herb, using its products whether for medical or recreational use has the same side effects.
These side effects can cause serious consequences to people with medical conditions and should be taken into consideration. The use of marijuana for the treatment of several symptoms and conditions may be promising, but still lacks supporting scientific evidences.