Medical Marijuana Recommended for Macular Degeneration

Medical Marijuana Recommended for Macular Degeneration

As more research emerges regarding the many benefits of marijuana and CBD (cannabidiol) oil, the more the medical industry and the general public understand that this plant goes way beyond recreational use. 

Recently, The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced medical marijuana to be recommended for macular degeneration starting in April of 2020. This is a big leap since the state legalized medical cannabis use for only nine conditions in 2014. Several more conditions have slowly been added to the list over the last five years including obstructive sleep apnea, post-traumatic stress disorder, and cancer. However, chronic pain and eye disease (specifically macular degeneration) have just been announced as current additions to an ever growing list. 

This move may not only help many Minnesotans to climb out of the rabbit hole of lifelong pharmaceuticals, it could also set a precedence for a nation looking to do the same when it comes to eye disease. 

Marijuana Stigma Aside

As AMD (age-related macular degeneration) afflicts approximately eleven million Americans (future predictions escalate this number twofold) a whole generation is being asked to cast aside decades of marijuana misinformation. These afflicted Americans are mostly over the age of sixty-five which means they grew up with marijuana being reported as dangerous as cocaine, heroin and LSD. In fact, cannabis still remains on the federal drug enforcement administration (DEA) ‘schedule one’ standing today, which states:

“Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.”

This federal standing continues even though marijuana has been continuously proven through scientific and observational studies to be a useful medical application as well as recreationally less damaging than alcohol. 

As these studies continue to validate cannabis use, patient education will hopefully and eventually move the marijuana stigma aside. This will allow those that once thought this plant as dangerous to potentially use cannabis’ natural healing properties for AMD which may lessen dependence on synthetic pharmaceuticals such as anti-VEGF injections, retinal blockers, and anti-inflammation applications.

Macular Cannabidiol Studies

As Minnesota embraces the use of medical marijuana for macular degeneration, other states may follow this recommendation. The added condition of chronic pain directly correlates for those suffering physical as well as mental pain challenges due to the slow, debilitating loss of sight alongside some invasive treatment options to retard progression. 

VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) is one of the major contributors to the development of macular degeneration. These are abnormal developments of blood vessels in the retina that can cause sight destruction. VEGF can also attack other parts of the body as well. CBD oil has been a successful treatment for macular degeneration. This compound is abundant in the hemp or male marijuana plant. Several studies have proven the effects of CBD for eye disease. 

An archival study by the American Association For Cancer Research tracked how marijuana use successfully reduced this abnormal blood vessel growth to brain tumors, stating, 

“Cannabinoids, the active ingredients in marijuana, restrict the sprouting of blood vessels to brain tumors by inhibiting the expression of genes needed for the production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)…The researchers also discovered that cannabinoids apparently worked by increasing the activity of ceramide, a lipid mediator of apoptosis [cell death], resulting in the functional inhibition of cells needed for VEGF production. The ability of cannabinoids to alter VEGF production was significantly stifled following the introduction of a ceramide inhibitor.”

Inflammation is another contributor to macular degeneration. As the retina becomes compromised, inflammation can occur causing sight destruction as well. Compounds found in the marijuana plant have been linked to significant anti-inflammatory benefits for a variety of human conditions, including AMD. 

An early study of anti-inflammatory research of retinal reaction from cannabidiol application research by the Department of Ophthalmology, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia concluded that, 

“These results suggest that the activated A(2A)AR in the retinal microglial cells plays a major anti-inflammatory role in the retina and that CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects are linked to the inhibition of adenosine uptake.”

Research continued with a study by the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, University of South Carolina, School of Medicine titled, ‘Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs’ stating that,

“Cannabinoids are potent anti-inflammatory agents and they exert their effects through induction of apoptosis [cell death], inhibition of cell proliferation, suppression of cytokine [inflammatory compound] production and induction of T-regulatory cells (Tregs [which modulate the immune system and prevent autoimmune disease])”

Healing, Pain Relieving Psychoactive Effects 

As legalized THC-free (mostly) cannabidiol sweeps the country, its healing effects speak for themselves. There is no side effect of psychoactive euphoria but the physical and sometimes mental results include lowering pain, reducing anxiety, and aiding sleep, to name a few. 

Medical marijuana that contains the ‘high’ inducing compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) can be used to create a pain-free, anti-inflammatory reaction as well as an often positive, calming, mood altering response. This mood altering is usually a euphoric feeling that could significantly reduce some symptoms of macular degeneration. 

In the study ‘Endocannabinoids in the Retina: From Marijuana to Neuroprotection’ by researchers at the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY and published in 

“It has been known for a long time that smoking marijuana induces corneal vasodilation (so called red eye) and a reduction of intraocular pressure (IOP – [found in glaucoma patients])…Eyes of patients with AMD [age-related macular degeneration] also showed widespread increases of AEA [anandamide – a messenger molecule] levels in the retina, choroid, ciliary body and cornea.”

New Delivery Systems

Minnesota Commissioner of Health, Jan Malcolm, commented on the move for macular degeneration to include medical marijuana treatment,

“…the decision to add age-related macular degeneration was due to a lack of good treatment options for managing symptoms…The bottom line is that people suffering from these serious conditions may be helped by participating in the program, and we felt it was important to give them the opportunity to seek that relief,”

The problem is that smoking marijuana is the least desirable delivery method due to its airborne infiltration. The Boston Globe reported that, 

“Pills, vapors, topical ointments and liquid gels had been the only forms people could obtain through licensed manufacturers. Starting next summer, new delivery methods will include water-soluble cannabinoid, such as powders or sprinkles, and products such as lozenges, gums, mints, and tablets.”

If you live in a legalized state, talk to your physician or naturopathic doctor to determine if medical marijuana help your struggle with or prevent macular degeneration