Diabetes Medication

Using Marijuana to Manage Diabetes

When I stopped smoking marijuana, I got diabetes instead. Maybe the timing was just a coincidence, but a new study indicates marijuana and diabetes may be connected.

Between 1972 and 1984 I was a heavy marijuana user. But I wasn’t heavy. In fact, in 1972 under the influence of marijuana I was able for the first time to manage my weight while becoming much more active. Then, I became an editor of a business magazine where I sat on my butt for long working hours every day, stopped using pot, and gained back all the weight I had lost under the influence of that illegal drug.

I was addicted to marijuana. Stopping was one of the hardest things I ever did, but as my cough got worse over the years I knew that I had to stop to save my health.

After I was able to stop for good, my weight ballooned up to 300 pounds by 1994 when a doctor told me that I had diabetes. Eventually, first under the influence of a legal drug, Byetta, and then by following a very low-carb diet, I have been able to control my weight. I have kept it down to about 156 pounds and a BMI 19.8 of for several years now.

With my weight under control I have been able to manage my diabetes without any drugs, legal or illegal. My most recent A1C level was 5.4.

If I hadn’t stopped using marijuana, a new study in a prestigious medical journal indicates I just might have avoided getting diabetes. This study in in press at The American Journal of Medicine,the official journal of The Association of Professors of Medicine, which is comprised of chairs of departments of internal medicine at more than 125 American medical schools. Written by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, the full-text is free online at “The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults.”

The study analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2005 and 2010. Called NHANES for short, this is a continuous survey of the National Center for Health Statistics, which is a part of the U.S. Government’s National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The researchers were able to compare the health of 579 current marijuana users, 1,975 previous users, and 2,103 who said that they had never used marijuana. They found that current marijuana users had significantly lower levels of fasting insulin levels and were less likely to be insulin resistant than either those who had previously used marijuana and had stopped and those who had never used it. Remarkably, even though using marijuana is associated with a greater caloric intake — well known to users as the munchies — the waist circumference of current users was smaller. Likewise, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the so-called good cholesterol) blood levels were higher in current users.

These are such controversial findings that the journal not surprisingly published an editorial accompanying the study. But the editorial, “Marijuana for Diabetic Control,” by the journal’s editor-in-chief Joseph S. Alpert, MD, was surprising.

I expected that the editorial about such a controversial article would somehow attempt to discredit the study. In fact, it supported it.

Marijuana is gradually becoming accepted in this country. In the past few years, 19 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation letting doctors prescribe marijuana for people who have severe and hard to control pain or nausea. Similar legislation is pending in other states. Recently, two states, including Colorado, where I live, have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

But even when I am able to legally buy marijuana, I won’t. The side effects of this drug are just too severe for me to deal with again. Besides, I am able to manage my diabetes now in a much safer way, without using any drugs.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Reply Alise Orlowski September 30, 2015 at 7:17 am

    Here is a statement from the one presidential candidate who actively supports the legalization of medical marijuana nationwide! “The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS — or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.”You can read more and support her campaign on her site http://denisebedio.com/marijuana. Join us and together, we can create a true land of the free.

  • Reply deVries January 4, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Thanks for your reply “here” and explanation about the issue not being able to reply to some “extra replies” at HC due to a glitch. I may re-post here until that glitch is fixed, so you can reply here until HC’s “reply issue” is fixed.

    A few times each week, not every day, I drink one or two beers or 1-2 6oz glasses of wine with my meals. Two or three times a year I fix a Margarita. Unfortunately, MJ is not legal here for me to try it out, but I know I would not become addicted to MJ or abuse it to excess to always be “high” or affect/effect my life negatively.

    I would seriously consider using it as a BG medicine if it had that effect on me to keep it lower, because I know it has other positive effects I experienced before. It would be worth trying to see if this would hold true long-term.

    I know of a nurse that has ingested MJ for 40+ years, so some people can use it successfully as a part of one’s life. Had MJ been legal here, then I think I would have preferred it to alcohol. I have over “high stress” situations drank too much alcohol a very few times over my entire lifetime, and I think taking MJ instead would have prevented me from doing that mistake with alcohol. But I’ve never been addicted or long-term dependent on using any kind of drugs whether legal or not, and at this stage of my life I’m able to avoid any of those experiences or “bad trips”.

    I have been borderline diabetic for several years now, since 2008, but I’m destined to become DT2 very soon (within months) if I don’t lose more weight & exercise more. My Grandfather had DT2 probably by the time he was in his 50’s, and I have a similar “body type” that he had.

    In Colorado there has been legal use of MJ for medical use w/prescription for years now, right? Maybe I’ll look into that to learn if specific MJ varieties had been developed for BG control with DT2. I seriously want to consider this option.

    • Reply David Mendosa January 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      Dear Dean,

      Right, Colorado has allowed medical marijuana for several years. Some other states too. Interesting question if some varieties would help manage blood sugar. I don’t know.

      I can say that between beer and wine that wine is generally better for those of us who have diabetes than beer because unless it is very sweet wine it has fewer calories and carbs.



  • Reply deVries January 3, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Instead of smoking MJ you can ingest it and avoid the lung smoke exposure. There are so many varieties of MJ now that I bet some varieties will do extremely well for DT2. I hope you will research this some more to find some specific varieties that can help the most. You might consider “testing” doing it orally at least from a research POV or ask around. Boulder has to be a major usage area for MJ. 😀

    I’ve only taken MJ smoke & food ingest less than 10 times in my lifetime, and I had good experiences with it finding mental, emotional, and sexual improvements, etc. If I could find a MJ variety that I could ingest & get good results with BG, etc., then I would definitely try using it to see if it would work long-term w/o adverse side-effects.

    MJ is much safer than alcohol, imo, and I’m a weekly (not daily) drinker of wine or beer. The first time I tried MJ I did have a paranoid reaction, because I was on the roadside with a friend & was constantly worried about the fuzz coming by & smell & catch us… All other times it was a great experience. MJ should be legal wherever alcohol is legal. Alcohol is far more dangerous, imo, especially, with driving and anger/violence and health issues.

    • Reply David Mendosa January 4, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Dear Dean,

      Before I forget, I want to let you (and other readers) know that I take my correspondence very seriously no matter how many requests I get,and I have been overwhelmed lately so it takes some time. But I have a further problem with comments that you and others leave to my posts at HealthCentral. That site has just gone through a major upgrade that makes it look a lot better, but it has some glitches that I have been complaining about to the powers that be. What is particularly frustrating to me is that the site now offers me no way to reply to the second comment that readers make in a chain of comments. In other words, when you make a comment and I reply to it and to reply to my comment I can’t reply to it. I have of course encouraged HealthCentral to fix this as soon as possible, but I know that I have not been able to reply to several of your comments there. This is just so you will understand my predicament.

      Now, as to marijuana, for the first time in my life I can talk about it when it is legal here. In Colorado where I live (as you know), it is legally sold since the beginning of the year. However, I won’t be buying any. I used it to excess in the 1970s and 80s because I get psychologically addicted to it. Like an alcoholic (which I am not), I can’t stop once I start. And I don’t have any friends who use marijuana who I could ask around to test. Since the time that I wrote that article, I am having second thoughts about the wisdom of it!

      Further, I have become a practicing Buddhist following precepts as well as I can. As Joseph Goldstein writes in his great new book Mindfulness, “Those of us living in the world can cultivate this ethical conduct by training in the basic five precepts: refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and using intoxicants that make the mind heedless.” I do not use recreational drugs or alcohol at all.

      I do agree with you, based on years of experience with marijuana and alcohol, that for most people alcohol is worse for us and where alcohol is legal so to should marijuana be. Particularly for people with diabetes, because all alcohol has calories that almost none of us need.

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