Are cannabinoid products causing preventable blindness?
Tuesday, June 05, 2018
Are users of cannabinoids slowly going blind and not knowing it? Cannabidiol has been shown to cause the transient glaucoma symptom of high eye pressure. Cannabidiol-CBD is the nonpsychoactive ingredient found in marijuana and hemp.
The bad news: 7-Eleven recently was reported to have struck a deal with Phoenix Tears to sell CBD products over the counter at over 4,000 locations. The good news: 7-Eleven is reporting that no such arrangement has been made.
There needs to be more research related to cannabinoids, including CBD. Not once, but twice, the media and public have failed to notice research findings that CBD spikes the pressure of eyes in animals.
The most recent scientific abstract reporting these concerns about eye pressure was in May this year at the meeting of the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology – ARVO. This meeting is attended by over 11,000 clinicians and researchers from around the world. Cutting-edge laboratory, clinical and public health findings are often first reported at this conference.
Another study discussing the increase in pressure with the use of CBD was reported in 2017. The research was reported at the International Cannabinoid Research Society Conference last summer.
The researchers behind the studies, Drs. Alex Straiker and Sally Miller from Indiana University, have found that CBD, when applied topically to normal, healthy mice, elevates eye pressure. They found that the psychoactive marijuana ingredient, THC lowered the pressure.
What has never been reported until their work, however, is that the THC lowering of pressure is gender-related, with the females having a slower response and reduced lowering of eye pressure. When the mice were genetically manipulated with regard to the receptors for cannabinoids, the eye pressure reductions with THC were less and the eye spiking with CBD was reversed.
These findings help us to further appreciate what research needs to be done related to the benefits of both THC and CBD. Clearly research is needed on humans to explore how CBD is affecting pressure.
Glaucoma is an eye disease where the pressure of the eye is increased, causing harm to the eye’s nerves. If left untreated, it often results in blindness. Of those states with legal adult use of marijuana, the majority approve of marijuana use for glaucoma.
However, eye care specialists do not recommend the use of marijuana to treat glaucoma.
Israel, a country that has been on the forefront of marijuana and cannabis research does not include glaucoma in their list of approved diseases for use of marijuana. There are limited studies related to intraocular pressure-lowering effects and even fewer done on actual glaucoma patients.
One study that demonstrated a reduction of intraocular pressure (IOP) with THC also demonstrated elevation with CBD, featuring a sublingual dose of 40 mg in humans.
The rush to introduce cannabinoid products to financially profit is appalling. Even those CBD products going through the Food and Drug Administration process have failed to study the potential of CBD causing spiking of pressures in the eye.
Why this has not been addressed is unclear. The widespread use of CBD obtained at the local corner convenience store, if coupled with an increase in eye pressure, is a huge public health concern that could lead to vision loss.
For those patients whose quality of lives are improved with CBD, the solution would be to treat the preventable vision loss along with the CBD treatment. Drs. Straiker and Miller are to be congratulated and thanked for caring enough to spend the money and energy to study the eye pressure concern related to CBD in their animals.
A simple short-term study of healthy human adults is warranted. Such a study would not be expensive. One needs ask why it has not been done.
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