Diabetes Mellitus and Medical Cannabis

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What is Diabetes Mellitus?

iabetes Mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disease caused by the degeneration of the pancreas. It is unable to synthesize the required amount of the hormone insulin, responsible for maintaining adequate levels of glucose in the blood that is then transported to other cells to be used up as energy required for the body to function.

As a result of this pancreatic failure, high levels of blood sugar (hyperglycemia) accumulate, thus inflicting a number of symptoms on the patient.

What is Diabetes Mellitus type 1?

More common in children, adolescents and adults who have had previous family history of the disease. This type of DM is characterized by progressive destruction of the pancreas at the cellular level. The most common symptoms are; increased appetite (polyphagia), increased thirst (polydipsia), increased frequency of urination (polyuria), weight loss, tiredness, weakness and blurred vision, problems in healing, among others.

What is Diabetes Mellitus type 2?

More common in adults and is directly related to obesity and dietary habits of an individual, can also be directly related to genetic factors. It is 10 times more common than type 1 DM and is related to the inability of the pancreas to produce necessary insulin. Its symptoms can be silent and go unnoticed for years.

The action of cannabinoids in diabetes mellitus

There are many benefits being obtained from research into cannabinoid treatment for people with diabetes. Its anti-inflammatory characteristics, helps retinopathy and conditions resulting from chronic inflammation, as well as preventing organ deterioration. There are also improvements in glucose processing.

Cannabinoids are being shown to help the body process glucose

The endocannabinoid system is involved in the regulation of appetite and appears to play an important role in eating and in disorders such as anorexia nervosa . Endocannabinoids such as anandamide are known to act through the CB1 receptors in the brain, stimulating appetite and increasing food intake . Disruption of endocannabinoid signals can contribute to the development of eating disorders.

Use of medical cannabis as a treatment for diabetes mellitus

Neuropathy is the most common complication of DM and is still considered to be relatively refractory to most analgesics. Studies such as that provided by Comelli, F et al (2009) where the antinociceptive effect of a cannabis extract controlled (eCBD) was studied to reduce diabetic neuropathic pain. The results concluded that treatment using cannabissignificantly relieves the abnormal sensation of mechanical pain (allodynia) and restores the perception of thermal pain without affecting hyperglycemia.

Moreover, the results showed that the eCBD increased the gluthione content (GSH) in the liver, which acts as a defense mechanism to decrease the lipid peroxidation in the liver, suggesting that the eCBD provides protection against oxidative damage in DM [1].

According to preclinical studies in rats treated with CBD, El-Remessy et al (2006) demonstrated that cannabinoids can alleviate some symptoms of the disease such as diabetic retinopathy (leading cause of blindness from diabetes in adults), when treated with CBD for periods of one to four weeks [2].

On the other hand, Rajabashisth et al 2012, an observational study evaluated the association between type 2 diabetes and cannabis, concluding that adults between ages 20-59 that had family history with the disease had a lower prevalence and likelihood of DM than those individuals who were not marijuana users. [3]

Bibliography on Diabetes Mellitus and the Use of Medical Cannabis

1]Comelli, F., Bettoni, I., Colleoni, M., Giagnoni, G. and Costa, B. (2009), Beneficial effects of aCannabis sativa extract treatment on diabetes-induced neuropathy and oxidative stress. Phytother. Res., 23: 1678–1684. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2806

[2] El-Remessy et al. (2006). Neuroprotective and blood-retinal barrier preserving effects of cannabidiol in experimental diabetes. American Journal of Pathology 168: 235-244.

[3]  Rajavashisth et al. 2012. Decreased prevalence of diabetes in marijuana users. BMJ Open 2

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