Diabetes affects more than 29 million people in the United States. It’s estimated that another 8 million cases are going undiagnosed and are unaware of their condition.

More than a million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in the US every year. One in every 10 adults who are 20 years or older has diabetes.

Diabetes can be a debilitating and life-threatening disease that can drastically lower one’s quality of life and require large amounts of time and money to combat.

Diabetics actually have to contend with group of diseases which result from too much sugar in the blood (high blood glucose). Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose). In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin. There’s also a stage called prediabetes in which blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes.

There is no cure for diabetes. Treatments aim at maintaining normal blood sugar levels through regular monitoring, insulin therapy, diet, and exercise.

Progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable. With lifestyle changes, weight loss, and medications, it’s possible to bring a blood sugar level back to normal.

What are Cannabinoids?

The human body has a vast endocannabinoid system which responds to changes in the body, produces chemicals called endocannabinoids which fit into receptors in cells throughout the body, especially the major organs. This system helps regulate a number of processes including appetite, memory, mood, pain, metabolism, blood flow, and immune response.

Cannabis contains a group of compounds called phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids made by plants). These phytocannabinoids mimic the actions of our own natural cannabinoids.

Cannabis contains around 80 different cannabinoids, most of which have not been widely researched as yet. The most well-known cannabinoids contained in cannabis are THC and CBD. THC is the cannabinoid that is responsible for the high that marijuana users experience. CBD has very similar effects without the high. Both have profound effects on the human body. So profound that 29 states have now passed laws allowing its use in medicine.

Cannabis for Diabetes

Several studies have shown that cannabis improves blood sugar control and helps with weight loss. It also appears to improve carbohydrate metabolism in users.

In July 2013, the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Medicine, Joseph S. Alpert, M.D., made this statement when releasing his team’s study called “The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults,” in the American Journal of Medicine:

“I would like to call on the NIH and the DEA to collaborate in developing policies to implement solid scientific investigations that would lead to information assisting physicians in the proper use and prescription of THC in its synthetic or herbal form.”

“Of the participants in our study sample, 579 were current marijuana users and 1975 were past users. In multivariable adjusted models, current marijuana use was associated with 16% lower fasting insulin levels and 17% lower HOMA-IR (insulin resistance). We found significant associations between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences.”

One of the symptoms of diabetes is called neuropathic pain. There is ample evidence that cannabis increases nerve growth factor and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help relieve pain.

Type 2 diabetics also have a higher risk of depression. There’s a sea of anecdotal evidence that cannabis improves mood and reduces anxiety, plenty of research to back that up.

Senior researcher Samir Haj-Dahmane said: “Chronic stress is one of the major causes of depression. Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilise moods and ease depression.”

There is still a lot to be learned about the effects cannabinoids have on diabetes, however many patients who use cannabis as a supplement to their usual treatment are reporting improvements in their symptoms.

Below is a list of research reports which look at studies on cannabinoids’ effects on diabetes and blood sugar levels.

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