Glaucoma, a progressive optic neuropathy, is a complex eye condition that can lead to peripheral vision loss and potentially blindness. While it affects approximately 3 million Americans, the treatment for this disease is often associated with managing elevated intraocular pressure (IOP). A lingering myth suggests that marijuana might be effective for treating glaucoma patients due to its ability to lower IOP. But is this truly a viable treatment option?
Marijuana, derived from the cannabis sativa plant, is known for its psychoactive compound, THC. Beyond its recreational use, it has been considered for various medicinal purposes, including the management of nausea, weight loss, PTSD, pain, and potentially glaucoma. However, despite marijuana’s ability to lower IOP, its effects are short-lived, and frequent use throughout the day could lead to significant adverse effects, including the risk of Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) and withdrawal symptoms.
There is a significant body of evidence from large studies that indicate lowering eye pressure can slow the progression of glaucoma. Yet, some patients who diligently follow all treatment protocols may still experience a decline in vision. This raises the question of whether alternative treatments, such as marijuana, could be beneficial. Ophthalmologists, however, generally prefer other treatments over marijuana, citing a lack of sustained effect on IOP and the potential for adverse side effects.
Research from 1979 by Goldberg I., Kass M. A., and Becker B. highlighted that marijuana and its derivatives could potentially be used in treating various medical conditions, including glaucoma. However, they emphasized the need for more research to confirm earlier results and resolve contradictions. Reclassification of marijuana as a Schedule II drug was suggested as a significant step towards facilitating such research. This standpoint was reiterated by Washington University research profiles.
As it stands, while marijuana has been shown to have some effect on lowering IOP, there is an element of doubt regarding its long-term viability and safety as a treatment for glaucoma. Further controlled trials and research are necessary to determine whether it can be a part of the treatment repertoire for glaucoma without significant drawbacks.