Published: 1st March 2013
In this video Sumil Kumar Aggarwal, (M.D., Ph.D.) a physician scientist and medical geographer, talks about a brief history of using marijuana as a glaucoma treatment and how it actually works on a molecular level. He also talks about the current status of medical marijuana studies as well as how it is currently used in society today.
In today’s modern society it is widely known that marijuana can be used to help treat glaucoma. In the past certain movies would even use it as a joke when people are caught smoking pot by the police. The reason it is widely known is in part due to a federal lawsuit won by Robert Randall in the 1970’s. Robert was arrested because he had marijuana, which he used to treat his own glaucoma symptoms. However he was able to prove that the federal government had funded studies at UCLA into marijuana use for glaucoma. The results showed that when you inhaled marijuana the pressure in your eye would decrease when viewed using a medical measuring device. The lawsuit made national headlines and showed a man who had won the right to use marijuana for glaucoma.
Since then, scientists have begun to better understand exactly what was going on in the eyes of glaucoma patients who use marijuana for relief. In the eye there are two chambers (the anterior chamber and the posterior chamber) with fluid moving back and forth with a mesh (trabecular) that tightens and loosens to help with the flow of the fluid. When someone has glaucoma that flow is disturbed and fluid builds up causing pressure to press on the retina and optic nerve. In untreated cases people can become blind.
How Marijuana Helps
Within the trabecular mesh their are chemical cannabinoid receptors attached to the neurons that help to regulate the strength of that mesh. When someone inhales marijuana, the marijuana adds more cannabinoids to your blood and in this case your ophthalmic artery, which is the artery that supplies blood to your eye. Once the cannabinoids interact with the mesh they help it open a little more and as a result it reduces pressure within the eye.
Sumil continues to state that there are plenty of studies that show cannabis can reduce the pressure in the eye and patients have seen these benefits using prescribed medical marijuana. However he feels there needs to be more research conducted to create better delivery methods such as eye drops that have longer lasting effects for patients. Although he notes that with failed modern treatments, inhaling medical marijuana is a great alternative because it is the only thing stopping people from going blind.