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open marijuana container; marijuana and diabetes benefits and risks

Marijuana and Diabetes: Benefits and Risks

As marijuana slowly becomes legal across the country, more and more people are turning to it to manage health conditions like chronic pain, gastrointestinal issues, and even diabetes. Marijuana and diabetes comes with several health benefits, but it also comes with a few risks as well.

How it works

Marijuana contains over 100 chemicals called cannabinoids. The two most commonly known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).  THC is a psychoactive, meaning it will affect your mind and give you the “high” commonly associated with marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and can be used medicinally to treat a plethora of health conditions.

Our bodies have natural cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system. When these receptors receive cannabinoids, it can affect your mood, energy and pain levels, memory, coordination, and appetite. Furthermore, marijuana can also increase insulin sensitivity, pancreatic cell function, and metabolism of lipids if you have diabetes.

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Benefits of marijuana and diabetes

The American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC), along with multiple studies, suggest that marijuana can:

infographic showing benefits of marijuana and diabetes

Risks

Although the health benefits seem to be significant for marijuana and diabetes, it still comes with some risks, especially if you have type 1 diabetes. One study found that marijuana users with type 1 diabetes had higher A1c test results and were at an increased risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical attention and can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Another disadvantage of marijuana and diabetes is that it can increase your appetite and encourage you to overeat and snack. Eating unhealthily or outside of mealtimes could increase your blood sugar levels and lead to dangerous blood sugar highs and lows.

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Is it FDA approved?

The FDA has approved only one product containing marijuana extracts, the CBD drug Epidiolex. In June 2018, Epidiolex was declared a safe and effective method of treating two types of epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. The seizures that occur from these conditions are difficult to treat with other medications.

Three drugs containing synthetic THC are also available for prescription for treating some specific kinds of anorexia and vomiting.

Canada, the United Kingdom, and some European countries have also approved Sativex, a mouth spray with THC and CBD compounds that help relieve pain and treat muscle spasms brought on by multiple sclerosis.

Check with your doctor before using any type of drug to make sure it’s safe for you to use and won’t interact with any of your current medications.