Diabetes Mellitus is the name for a group of metabolic diseases in which sufferers have high blood sugar for an extended period. According to the CDC, a staggering 29 million people have some form of the disease – roughly 10% of the entire population. Here we’ll explore the disease, traditional treatments and the extraordinary benefits of cannabis and diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
There are three forms, all of which are characterized by too much blood sugar for a prolonged period.
- Type 1 diabetes occurs as a result of the pancreas’s inability to produce sufficient insulin. The cause of this kind of diabetes is unknown. Because insulin is responsible for taking sugar from the blood into the fat, liver, and muscle, having too little of it means too much sugar stays in the blood
- Type 2 diabetes develops primarily because of too much body weight and too little exercise. Because of these factors, cells in the body cease to respond to insulin properly; as a result, too much sugar stays in the blood
- Gestational diabetes occurs when pregnant women develop high blood sugar levels, but this type results in few symptoms
Symptoms usually include increased urination, thirst, and hunger. Low blood sugar as a result of either a lack of insulin or its ineffectiveness can lead to a diabetic emergency. Signs of this event include sweating, trembling, confusion, seizure, unconsciousness, and sometimes brain damage or death.
In the long term, diabetes puts sufferers at risk for some complications. For example, patients are at twice the risk for cardiovascular disease. The disease also increases the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. Because the illness damages small blood vessels over time, damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves are also things to watch for. With this cost comes a host of problems, one of which is diabetic neuropathy, or intense nerve pain.
The disease is virtually incurable, save for a few rare instances. As such, treatment revolves around managing symptoms and maintaining a healthy body weight. This is achieved through lifestyle alterations such as a balanced diet and regular exercise. The goal of this is to bring blood sugar levels down to a normal level.
Medications are also used to lower blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes. For those with type 1, however, insulin shots are required. In rare cases, a pancreas transplant is offered to those with type 1 diabetes in hopes of receiving an organ that produces more insulin. Whether a patient has type 1 or 2 diabetes, however, they often have nerve pain brought on by the disease. Cannabis can help!
Cannabis Treatment For Diabetes
A study was conducted on rats to assess the effectiveness of cannabis for diabetic nerve pain. They found that the neuropathic pain that is symptomatic of some diabetes sufferers was effectively relieved by a cannabis-based medication. Because diabetic nerve pain is the most common of all neuropathic pains experienced around the world, the scope of this research is quite broad.
In humans, cannabis has been shown to be an effective treatment for chronic nerve pain. Given what was found in the study on rats, it stands to reason that cannabis-based medication is also a suitable treatment for nerve pain in people.
Does Cannabis Prevent the Development of Diabetes?
Another study conducted on diabetic rats used Cannabidiol, a cannabis-based medicine, and examined the effects. What they found was shocking: incidence of diabetes plummeted from 86% in the placebo rats to just 30% in the rats receiving Cannabidiol. The researchers explain that the medication works by inhibiting and delaying insulitis, a disease of the pancreas that causes sufferers to become diabetic. The immensity of this finding should not go unnoticed. After all, the best way to treat a disease is to prevent people from ever getting it.
On humans, researchers just last year conducted a national survey. They observed that recent or current active cannabis smoking was inversely associated with having diabetes. In other words, people who smoke cannabis are less likely to develop the disease than those who don’t. What this suggests is that cannabis smoking possibly protects users from developing the disorder. The study notes that while this is not conclusive, more research should be done to confirm their findings.
The Future of Cannabis for Diabetes
Studies have shown promise for using cannabis as medicine to treat the symptoms of diabetes as well as prevent it from ever developing. Unsurprisingly, surveys conducted on the subject reflect this, with cannabis users being less likely to develop the disease. More research will probably corroborate these findings, and soon cannabis may be used more commonly to treat diabetes.