Glaucoma is a group of diseases that are classified as a progressive optic neuropathy, accompanied by peripheral vision loss. There are various risk factors for the development of glaucoma, including but not limited to age. Marijuana comes from the cannabis sativa plant, containing high levels of THC, and is commercially available in various forms. Some people believe that marijuana can be used to treat glaucoma, due to its ability to lower intraocular pressure (IOP).
Marijuana has indeed been shown to reduce IOP, but its effects are short-lived and come with numerous adverse effects. To maintain a reduced IOP for glaucoma treatment, marijuana would need to be used frequently throughout the day, potentially leading to significant adverse effects, the possibility of progressing towards Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD), and/or experiencing withdrawal symptoms. The disease, which affects around 3 million Americans, results in elevated pressure within the eye and can lead to blindness if left untreated.
While it is true that marijuana has the ability to lower eye pressure, many ophthalmologists and healthcare professionals advise against its use for treating glaucoma. David A. Belyea, M.D. M.B.A., vice chair and professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and director of glaucoma services, published a survey in JAMA Ophthalmology. The survey involved D.C. glaucoma patients who asked for a marijuana prescription after legalization, indicating an interest or belief in marijuana as a potential treatment for glaucoma. However, the consensus among experts is that there are more effective and less risky treatments available.
Marijuana is also utilized to manage other health conditions such as nausea, weight loss, and can be used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans returning from combat zones. Additionally, medical marijuana is reported to help patients suffering from pain and wasting syndrome associated with HIV, as well as irritable bowel syndrome. However, when it comes to glaucoma, the risks associated with marijuana use seem to outweigh the benefits.
Though there are a variety of treatments available for glaucoma, primarily focused on lowering eye pressure, the medical community is still in search of more effective and less harmful alternatives. The myth of marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma has been hard to dispel, but it is important for patients and healthcare providers to have accurate information and to approach this topic with a critical perspective.
Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
Glaucoma and Marijuana: What Ophthalmologists Want You to Know
Medical marijuana – Harvard Health
Marijuana for glaucoma: A recipe for disaster or treatment?
Study Examines Intent of Glaucoma Patients to Use Marijuana for Treatment
Are there treatments other than lowering eye pressure?
Medical Marijuana and the Healthcare System – Eastern Kentucky University
Medicine Meets Marijuana – UCSF Magazine