With the emergence of medical marijuana in the nation over the past decade, the rare eye condition, Glaucoma, has become a household name of sorts. What was once a condition rarely referenced outside of ophthalmologist’s offices, is now splattered across the news, pop culture, and almost every stoner comedy. But for those who suffer from this disease, it is no laughing matter. Glaucoma effects over 3 million Americans today, and is the second leading cause of blindness in the world according to the World Health Organization. But thanks to the medical marijuana movement, the situation for Glaucoma patients is looking up!
As of now, Glaucoma has NO cure. Those affected with it, even those who receive treatment, have a ten percent chance of losing their vision. Glaucoma is a condition in which the optic nerve deteriorates over time. This is caused by higher than normal levels of Intraocular Pressure. Those who suffer from glaucoma regularly experience peripheral vision loss as well as extreme pain caused by this internal pressure differential. So how does cannabis factor into all this?
Cannabis has an uncanny ability to relieve ocular pressure. What many people note as red eyes in cannabis users, is actually the manifestation of Interocular Pressure relief. That’s right! When glaucoma patients ingest marijuana and their eyes begin to redden, they are actually being relieved of their Interocular Pressure and the pains associated with Glaucoma. Unfortunately, due to the limited amount of research available on medical marijuana it is unclear of the future of its use as medicine for Glaucoma patients. Although, it has been proven to relieve pressure and therefore prevent damage to the optic nerve, scientists fear its blood thinning affects might contradict these benefits. That being said, in the thirty years of limited testing that has been conducted, damage to the optic nerve has not been noted. Patients praise marijuana for its alleviative affects, and simplicity. Many patients have reported liver and kidney damage as a result of the numerous glaucoma medications they are prescribed. Elvy Mussika, a medical marijuana patient for over 30 years had the following to say on the matter,
“I was diagnosed with Glaucoma in 1975. Within a year, I already knew that there was nothing absolutely nothing that was on the market then worked for my glaucoma except for marijuana… One of the benefits of using marijuana is that most of us drop all the other drugs that really do a number on our heads and make it difficult for us to stay healthy..”
Patients seem to be very open and accepting of cannabis as a treatment options, but doctors are much more skeptical. Doctors worry that having to be in a state of perpetual “high” is dangerous and ineffective as a treatment. The American Glaucoma Society, takes a conservative approach, as well
“[T]he mainstay of treatment for glaucoma patients is lowering the IOP [intraocular pressure]… Although marijuana can lower the intraocular pressure (IOP), its side effects and short duration of action, coupled with a lack of evidence that it use alters the course of glaucoma, preclude recommending this drug in any form for the treatment of glaucoma at the present time.”
Despite the skepticism, marijuana advocates and patients maintain high hopes for the future of cannabis as glaucoma treatment. With new advances in the medical marijuana field, it will soon be possible to dose out cannabanoids in a regular and moderate dosage throughout the day. Similar to the way in which some diabetic patients receive insulin regularly throughout the day without the pain of injections. Regardless, patients rejoice that there is a cheap, non-addictive, and non-invasive medication to alleviate their pressure differentials available today. With only 30% of Americans even having knowledge of this condition, maybe it is good that Glaucoma is receiving the national attention it is. That being said, it is important to remember that marijuana is not just for recreational use, it has marvelous medical benefits for many people. Whether it be Epilepsy, Glaucoma, Multiple Sclerosis, or Cancer patients across the country depend on its use. However, for many patients across the globe, the use of marijuana carries heavy consequences. Even here, the U.S has maintained its federal classification of marijuana as a schedule 1 drug. Deeming it void of medical use and having a high potential for abuse.
In conclusion, marijuana has shown a fascinating ability to relieve the main proponent of optical nerve damage, Interocular Pressure. This provides relief and resistance to the escalation of the Glaucoma disease in many patients. Whether marijuana will eventually cure Glaucoma is unknown, but as states begin to initiate their medical programs, more information is being learned every day. Scientists and doctors are skeptical, but patients and proponents praise the drug, and pray for continued investigation and investment.