There will be no loud statements that ophthalmology has high hopes for marijuana. But we will not deny some effect on intraocular pressure in glaucoma. For more details read on!
Let’s Talk About Marijuana
Dr. Benjamin, in our somewhat enlightened times, and in a state where marijuana is practically legal, can we finally speak freely on the subject?
We can speak freely on any subject in which I feel competent. Ophthalmology, for example.
What an amazing coincidence – that’s what I want to ask about. So is marijuana useful for the eyes or no? I’ve heard that it all but cures glaucoma, which is the leading cause of blindness. There are eye drops, but a tiny 2.5mL bottle costs around $180.
There isn’t a simple answer for that. To begin with, a bottle of Lumigan, which is what you were probably talking about, lasts for about a month and is usually covered by insurance. And if not, the doctor can prescribe a cheaper equivalent. If you have glaucoma, then you need to reduce that pressure 24 hours a day. In order for marijuana to work for 24 hours, you’d have to smoke 8-10 times a day, and even at night. A month, as I recall, is about 30 days, and eyedrops are only applied once or twice daily.
So does pot actually reduce eye pressure?
It really has its advantages and disadvantages. Let me remind you of the gist of glaucoma. High intraocular pressure can damage the nerve that connects the eye to the brain, which in turn can lead to blindness, so the optic nerve needs to be safeguarded against high pressure at all times. Marijuana actually does reduce pressure, as studies showed back in the 1970s. So what seems to be the problem? There are some serious “buts” that will likely outweigh its benefit. On top of the fact that marijuana only works 3-4 hours at a time, it also lowers blood pressure, and that reduces blood flow to the optic nerve. This is not a good thing. In addition, the product is unregulated, so the amount of THC in a joint or piece of chocolate is hard to determine.
What are its other disadvantages?
Another disadvantage, considered an advantage by marijuana enthusiasts, is the high. In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with that, but most glaucoma sufferers are over 60 and at increased risk of dizziness and falling. Marijuana also increases heart rate, affects short-term memory, and contains substances harmful to the lungs. The smoke can also contribute to macular degeneration, which also ultimately end in blindness.
All roads lead to Rome. It isn’t always possible to smoke it, but you can eat it.
In that sense, the edibles seem to be better than a joint, but the edibles have side effects, too – people often don’t immediately feel its effects and overdo it, thus exacerbating the aforementioned risks.
I’ve got an idea. What if you made eyedrops that have THC in them? Or maybe even CBD, which is the other main ingredient in marijuana, and now known as it’s most effective healing factor.
Others have had this idea, as well. Experimental eyedrops containing THC and other substances have been investigated, but the results are so far inconclusive, since it’s very difficult to create a formula at a concentration that is effective.
Taking everything we’ve said into consideration, what’s the conclusion?
There are proven methods for slowing down glaucoma, such as laser treatment, drops, and surgery, but the proof that marijuana has a positive effect in this regard is not yet available. We need new research, and it’s long overdue. Progress in resolving this problem may not necessarily be associated with marijuana, though, as we just mentioned.
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