Glaucoma, a complex eye condition that can lead to blindness if untreated, affects approximately 3 million Americans. It’s characterized by elevated intraocular pressure (IOP), which damages the optic nerve over time. This brings us to a longstanding question: Is marijuana a viable treatment for glaucoma?
Marijuana, part of the cannabis sativa plant, is known for its high levels of THC. It’s been used to manage conditions like nausea, weight loss, and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Regarding glaucoma, marijuana has been shown to temporarily lower IOP. However, this effect has a limited duration and comes with numerous adverse effects. Harvard Health notes that for glaucoma treatment, marijuana would require frequent usage throughout the day, potentially leading to Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD), withdrawal symptoms, and other significant side effects.
Dr. David A. Belyea, vice chair and professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and director of glaucoma services, highlights that some patients still inquire about marijuana prescriptions for glaucoma treatment. This interest persists despite the known drawbacks and limited efficacy of marijuana in this context. Belyea’s work, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, reflects ongoing investigations into patients’ attitudes towards marijuana for glaucoma, especially after its legalization in various regions. Study Examines Intent of Glaucoma Patients
There’s an ongoing debate about the effectiveness of marijuana in treating glaucoma. While it does lower IOP, the duration of this effect and the potential adverse consequences raise doubts about its practicality as a primary treatment option. Some experts, like Goldberg, Kass, and Becker, suggest that more research is needed to resolve contradictions and substantiate earlier results. Their perspective, dating back to 1979, still holds relevance today. Marijuana as a Treatment for Glaucoma
In conclusion, while marijuana has shown some potential in lowering IOP in glaucoma patients, its limited duration of action and the risk of side effects make it a less than ideal treatment. The medical community continues to explore other, more effective treatments that address the root causes of glaucoma without the significant drawbacks associated with marijuana use.