Medical Marijuana for Diabetes

by David Mendosa Patient Advocate

Here is a copy of a letter -- with the author's name and other identifying information redacted out -- about anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana might help some complications of diabetes.

The person who wrote me has a better memory than I do. I don't remember corresponding with him before, but he remembers that when I used marijuana I was addicted to it. It got to where I had to be high all my waking hours. My correspondent is also quite correct in writing that I would not be a good candidate for medical marijuana, except as a last resort.

The jist of what he wrote follows:

Hi David,

l've read your diabetes writings off and on for probably 10 to 15 years. You do have a good solid set of useful information for people with diabetes -- especially type 2's like me. My background and work has been in the physical sciences, and I can appreciation your added scientific basis in your articles. Anyway, I emailed you a number of years ago, and I appreciate your replies.

I met someone who had type 2 diabetes here when I we were attending an informational meeting about my state's new medical marijuana laws. I was opposed to using it, at least for recreational use, which can become psychologically addicting, as you know. But my wife suffers from ruptured discs that causes intense pain, and I was looking into it for her sake. Years ago each of us had used/abused marijuana before giving it up.

To get to the point -- which is just a single data point but significant -- the guy I met at the meeting was going into the latter stages of nephropathy. His creatinine level reached 6.3 when they did dialysis shunt surgery in preparation for him to begin regular dialysis. He had just begun to use medical marijuana.

His wife has multiple sclerosis. After much opposition to her using medical marijuana, he finally saw how it helped her, accepted it, and began using it himself.

It helped his existing nephropathy and the spasms he had because of his kidney problem. After his shunt surgery, he decided to increase his medical marijuana intake. His creatinine dropped to the 4's and has stayed there ever since. He has not been having dialysis, as this happened after his shunt surgery.

He is currently the person in the state who has not required dialysis for the longest period after getting a shunt implanted. His nephrologists dismiss his claim that increasing his medical marijuana intake helped to lower his creatinine. But they were quite impressed because his labs had not been this good for more than three years prior to that. In fact, based on his creatinine level, he would not need a shunt now, which has stayed generally stable for several years. He has benefited greatly from medical marijuana.

I have to say that there is something quite significant to the improvement in his blood chemistry. And this is perhaps one of many other "quiet" people who might also add other data points to this knowledge -- but who remain silent for legal or cultural reasons.

I do keep in touch with him. He is commonly on the local news when they cover medical marijuana meetings here, like city council and various state hearings. Looking back on his case, I suspect that medical marijuana might help lower his blood pressure, which would help improve conditions for his kidneys. It also does have some anti-inflammatory effects, which can also improve things for people with diabetes -- though smoking medical marijuana is probably not the healthiest way to administer it.

My wife finds that medical marijuana to be the best treatment for her back pain. She also suffers from migraines, and again medical marijuana beats the prescription meds that she tried -- and she's gone through a gob of different ones. She just smokes one hit, does not seem stoned, and finds complete relief from her back and migraines.

But it would not be something good for someone who like you has discipline problems with abusing marijuana. It might be of use for others who don�t face such struggles. Just like we don't prescribe narcotics to opiate addicts, potheads should probably not use medical marijuana, unless as a last resort to survive.

Anyway, I offer this diabetes-related bit of medical marijuana data for your consideration. While it may be potentially helpful for some, people who have addiction problems should avoid it. Myself, I had never liked being overly stoned, and lately not at all. But if I were facing dialysis, my attitude would change drastically.

Please don't use our real names because the state's medical marijuana laws are still a gray area. Until the FDA, the DEA, and the state get onto the same page, using medical marijuana can get people into trouble.

That's the story from my correspondent. I know that you can get medical marijuana in several states now. Where I live, medical marijuana seems to be available for anyone who wants it. But because I am one of those sad cases who can't handle it, I'm not tempted. Besides, I have been able to control my health with diet, weight loss, and exercise alone.

Of course, even if you are more disciplined than me and your diabetes is out of control, I am not recommending that you rush right out to your local medical marijuana dispensary or start growing weed in your back yard.

I am asking for your consideration and anonymous comments. Have any of you seen any improvement in your diabetes control by using pot?

David Mendosa
Meet Our Writer
David Mendosa

David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.