Ancient Chinese used cannabis as medicine as early back as between 2696-2737 BC. Thousands of years later, and cannabis is still a staple in the medical world. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, and more states are warming up to the medicinal benefits of marijuana.
Perhaps the most significant contribution of marijuana to medicine is its treatment of glaucoma, which raises the question of the relationship between marijuana and glaucoma.
More than 3 million Americans suffer from glaucoma, with a big chunk of them being over the age of 40. While glaucoma is certainly not a life-threatening condition, it’s a leading cause of blindness, especially with Hispanics and African Americans in the US.
In this post, we’ll be expounding on the raging debate between marijuana and glaucoma. We’ll establish whether marijuana indeed treats glaucoma, and if so, how does it work.
How Does Marijuana Affect Glaucoma?
Quite frankly, we still need more research to ascertain whether marijuana is an adequate treatment for glaucoma. In fact, The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, doesn’t endorse marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma. However, most people strongly advocate for marijuana as an affordable and effective glaucoma treatment.
Treatment of glaucoma involves lowering eye pressure or intraocular pressure. You can achieve this by utilizing a combination of oral medications, laser treatments, and eye drops. In severe cases, the ophthalmologist may prescribe surgery to lower the eye pressure.
Marijuana has proven to lower eye pressure. This makes it’s a great alternative for folks who can’t handle eye drops or oral glaucoma medication. Note that marijuana lowers eye pressure for people with and without glaucoma.
Traditional Glaucoma Treatments
While the effects of glaucoma are irreversible, consistent treatment and checkups can keep it from worsening and prevent vision loss. You can significantly reduce the probability of permanent vision loss if you catch the disease in its early stages. The Eye Doctor Layton will advise you on the best treatment option for your glaucoma stage.
Ophthalmologists prescribe eye drops as the most common and effective treatment of glaucoma. For more advanced cases, the doctor will prescribe laser treatments or surgery.
Marijuana and Glaucoma: The Treatment Options
Marijuana is a versatile drug that comes in many forms, including tinctures, topicals, smoke, just to name a few. For glaucoma, there are two main marijuana treatment options, smoking and marijuana eye drops.
Let’s look at both of them in detail.
For most, smoking marijuana seems more of a recreational activity than a treatment. Smoking marijuana does lower eye pressure; however, it might not be the most practical treatment for glaucoma. That’s because the pressure-lowering effects of inhaled marijuana only last for about three to four hours.
That means to manage your eye pressure; you’ll have to smoke marijuana at least every four hours. Keep in mind that marijuana has other psychoactive effects that impair your judgment. There’s no way you can lead a practical life and carry out your daily duties while smoking after every three hours.
Marijuana cigarettes are also a huge no-no. That’s because, like tobacco cigarettes, these marijuana cigarettes are detrimental to your lungs. Prolonged use of marijuana may also have some negative effects on brain function.
For the most part, smoking marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma isn’t a very practical solution. However, you can consider the other marijuana treatment option.
Marijuana Eye Drops
You can sidestep the harmful effects of inhaling marijuana by going for marijuana eye drops instead. Marijuana eye drops seem like a logical solution, but unfortunately, it isn’t too practical.
THC (Tetrahydrocannabidiol), the active compound in marijuana, isn’t too water-soluble. That makes it difficult to produce THC eye drops with high enough concentration to effectively lower pressure. So marijuana eye drops are only useful for mild glaucoma cases.
What about orals and sublingual treatments? While oral and sublingual marijuana treatments avoid the lung problem, they have their downsides. The psychoactive effects of orally ingested marijuana are much stronger and can last for between two to ten hours.
In fact, a study done on sublingual marijuana for glaucoma showed no promise in reducing intraocular pressure. The systemic and side effects can lead to further complications down the line. That’s why oral marijuana treatment for glaucoma is never an option.
Is CBD Beneficial for Glaucoma?
There are two active compounds in the marijuana plant, THC and CBD. While we’ve talked much about THC, what about its less “exciting” cousin CBD? What can CBD do for your glaucoma?
Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive effects when ingested. Instead, its effects are more relaxing and therapeutic. In the right amounts, CBD can also lower intraocular pressure?
As of now, no research has conclusively established that CBD reduces eye pressure and can benefit glaucoma patients. In fact, one study seems to suggest that CBD could actually be harmful to glaucoma patients. CBD may increase IOP, which worsens glaucoma.
What Does the Future Hold in Store?
As for now, marijuana being an effective treatment for glaucoma isn’t much of a reality. That’s because you’ll require consistent use every day for it to have any significant effect. Plus, the continuous use of marijuana may cause unwanted side effects.
However, scientists and doctors are looking for means of using active marijuana compounds as a glaucoma treatment. As for now, you’ll have to stick with what your eye doctor prescribes for you.
The Marijuana and Glaucoma Debate Rages On
The relationship between marijuana and glaucoma is still a murky one currently. Whether we’ll see an effective marijuana treatment for glaucoma depends on how much work scientists are willing to put into the research. Currently, there’s not enough proof to suggest that you can treat glaucoma using marijuana.
Apart from marijuana and glaucoma debate, there’s a lot more you’d want to learn about marijuana and its application in the medical industry. Make sure you check out our other articles to expand your knowledge.