People with type 1 diabetes may be at increased risk for serious complications when using marijuana, according to a new study.
The use of marijuana grows as it becomes more legal in the United States.
Several studies have reported an improvement in insulin sensitivity and pancreatic beta function with cannabis, which has attracted widespread attention, suggesting cannabis as a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
However, less is known about the effect of cannabis on people with type 1 diabetes.
A new study found recurrent diabetic retinopathy (DKA) associated with cannabis use in patients with type 1 diabetes.
How was the study conducted?
The survey included 450 patients with type 1 diabetes in Colorado, where marijuana is legal. Of the participants, 30% used marijuana.
Compared with those who did not use marijuana, those who did had twice the risk of experiencing a complication called diabetic ketoacidosis.
The situation develops when blood sugar is raised too long and the body produces high levels of acids known as ketones. If the condition is not treated, it can cause severe dehydration, brain swelling, coma, and even death.
The researchers found that participants who used marijuana in the study had an average A1c readings of 8.4%, which represent a dangerous blood sugar level, which may increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, amputation and death.
They found that those who did not use marijuana average A1c readings of 7.6 percent, still higher than ideal but not as dangerous as levels for people who used marijuana.
One limitation of the study was that it was not a controlled experiment to figure out in fact how cannabis might cause ketoosis.
"Further research is needed to better understand the effects marijuana use has on diabetics," the authors write.
The study was conducted at the Barbara Davis Diabetes Center and the School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz.
The study was published in JAMA.