Can Cannabis Treat Diabetes?

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Can cannabis treat diabetes? Cannabis shows promise for managing type 1 and type 2 diabetes and associated conditions

Every day, three million Canadians live with diabetes. By 2020 that number is expected to grow to 4.2 million, more than 10 percent of the country’s population. What’s worse, an estimated additional one million Canadians have the disease but do not know it.

Juvenile Diabetes, the common name for type 1 diabetes, is a genetic condition where the pancreas cannot create enough insulin to meet the body’s needs. Those with type 1 diabetes require multiple insulin injections daily. With type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, the body can produce insulin. However, the body either doesn’t generate enough insulin to maintain a healthy glucose level, or the body resists the insulin it does create.

How cannabis helps

The American Journal of Medicine’s The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance Among US Adults is a cornerstone report on the cannabis-diabetes connection.

Dr. Murray Mittleman, the study’s co-author, pointed to the key finding that cannabis users’ fasting insulin levels were not only lower but also appeared to be less resistant to the insulin produced, helping them maintain a normal blood-sugar level. Cannabis users also better metabolized carbohydrates compared to non-cannabis users.

Cannabis for treating diabetes associated conditions

In addition to insulin insufficiency, certain conditions and complications are associated with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, including neuropathy, glaucoma, peripheral vascular disease, and high blood pressure.

Neuropathy

Neuropathy affects roughly 70 per cent of all those with diabetes in one of four areas: peripheral (arms, hands, feet); autonomic (blood-glucose levels that control blood pressure, nerves); focal (legs, torso, head) and proximal or ‘one-sided’ (hips, thighs, buttocks).

Research from multiple studies concludes that cannabis can reduce and alleviate neuropathic pain.

Blood pressure

Numerous studies point to cannabis as a promising—although not yet definitive—treatment for hypertension, or high blood pressure. We do know that regular cannabis use is associated with lower long-term blood pressure.

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