Diabetes and Medical Marijuana

Diabetes mellitus is a group of autoimmune diseases characterized by defects in insulin secretion   resulting in hyperglycemia (abnormally high concentration of glucose in the blood).  There are two primary types of diabetes.  Type 1 diabetes (also known as juvenile diabetes) are incapable of producing pancreatic insulin and must rely on insulin medication for survival.  Type 2 diabetes (also known as adult onset diabetes) produce inadequate amounts of insulin.  Type 2 diabetes is a less serious condition that typically is controlled by diet.  Over time, diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure nerve damage, hardening of the arteries and death.  The disease is the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer.

A search of the scientific literature reveals no clinical investigations of cannabis for the treatment of diabetes, but does identify a small number of preclinical studies indicating that cannabinoids may modify the disease’s progression and provide symptomatic relief  to those suffering from the disease.

2006 Study—5 mg. per day injection of CBD significantly reduced the incidence of diabetes in mice.  Also delayed the onset of diabetes in mice.

March 2006  American Journal of Pathology—Study done at the Medical College of Virginia—Rats treated with CBD (from 1-4 weeks) experienced protection from diabetic retinopathy (condition characterized by retinal oxygen deprivation and a breakdown of the blood-retinal barrier, is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults).

Studies reported in the journal of Neuroscience Letters in 2004—Mice given a cannabis receptor agonist experienced a reduction in diabetic related tactile allodynia (pain resulting from non-injurious stimulus to the skin) compared to non-treated controls.  Suggesting that cannabinoids have a beneficial effect on diabetic neuropathic pain.

2001 Trial—Delta 9 THC could moderate the disease by reducing artificially  elevated glucose levels and insulitis in mice.

Researchers from the U.S., Switzerland, and Israel and reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology CBD reduces various symptoms of diabetic cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle) in mice with type 1 diabetes. 

The incidence of diabetes is steadily increasing in both the adult and juvenile population.  Further cannabinoid research is necessary for the treatment of diabetes.

New insights into the role of cannabis and cannabinoids in diabetes are emerging from this developing field of research.

Two other major actions of cannabis can benefit the diabetic.  First is helping to keep blood vessels open and improving circulation.  Cannabis is a vasodilator and works well to improve blood flow.  Second, cannabis may reduce blood pressure over time.  Cannabis is not generally thought to be an anti-hypertensive and is not a replacement for ACE inhibitors, it does contribute to lowering blood pressure which is so important in managing diabetes.

Study

Neuropathy is the most common complication of diabetes.  The aim of the study was to explore the antinocieceptive effect of a controlled cannabis extract (eCBD) on diabetic neuropathic pain.  Repeated treatment with cannabis extract significantly relieved mechanical allodynia and restored the physiological thermal pain perception in diabetic rats without affecting hyperglycemia.  In addition, the results showed that eCBD increased the reduced glutathione (GSH) content in the liver.  Suggesting that eCBD provides protection against oxidative damage.

Diabetes:  insulin is excreted from the beta islet cells of the pancreas.  Insulin, a natural body chemical, floods the body after a sugar-rich meal and causes various cell types to dramatically increase their uptake of glucose, a common sugar.  The effect of insulin is to reduce the levels of glucose in the bloodstream.  Diabetes can result from the body’s inability to produce sufficient quantities of insulin or from an inability to respond properly to the insulin that is produced.  In any case, many of the clinical effects of diabetes stem from the deleterious effects of high blood sugar.

There is evidence that cannabis lowers blood sugar.  Evidence also supports a “longer acting” cannabinoid suppresses blood sugar levels more efficiently.  Cannabis may lower blood sugar in a non-disease state.

Diabetic patients presenting with micro and macro-vascular complications show significant increases in serum VEGF concentration.  Cannabinoid treatment decreased serum VEGF levels, leading to an improvement in symptoms.  These results suggest an immunomodulatory role for cannabinoids in addition to their previously documented anti-inflammatory effects.

Theory

  • Cannabis stabilizes blood sugar
  • Cannabis has anti-inflammatory effect
  • Cannabis has neuroprotective effects
  • Cannabis has anti-spasmodic effects
  • Cannabis acts as a vasodilator
  • Cannabis helps lower blood pressure
  • Cannabis helps relieve diabetic RLS (restless leg syndrome)