Last updated on: 4/8/2014 4:04:16 PM PST
Is Marijuana an Effective Treatment for Glaucoma?



PRO (yes)

Elvy Musikka, a patient in the federal Compassionate IND program for medical marijuana, stated the following in a YouTube video created by Medical Marijuana 411 and uploaded by Sam Sabzehzar on May 28, 2010:

"I was diagnosed with Glaucoma in 1975. Within a year, I already knew that there was nothing absolutely nothing that was on the market then worked for my glaucoma except for marijuana... One of the benefits of using marijuana is that most of us drop all the other drugs that really do a number on our heads and make it difficult for us to stay healthy between our livers, kidneys and everything else about us. It takes other pills to take care of everything else. I don't have to deal with that. I did discover marijuana and pretty soon I found that it was the only medicine I ever needed."

May 28, 2010 - Elvy Musikka 



Denver Relief, a medical marijuana dispensary, stated the following in an article on its website titled "Glaucoma and Cannabis," available at denverrelief.com (accessed Apr. 3, 2014):

"Medication may be prescribed to control the pressure, but cannabis is also very effective at reducing the [intraocular] pressure thus preventing damage that can lead to blindness. The THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (Cannabidiol) and other cannabinoids present in medicinal marijuana have an advantage over pharmaceuticals as the variety of cannabinoids is superior to synthetic, single-ingredient medications.

The reason most cited by opponents of using cannabis as a treatment for glaucoma is that to maintain the therapeutic effect a patient must smoke frequently which may have long term effects on the lungs. Yet, with the wide availability of edibles which last considerably longer and vaporizers, this is not reason enough to disregard marijuana altogether.

There are many pharmaceutical options for the treatment of glaucoma, but they may lose effectiveness over time while cannabis has a consistent effect. While there is no known cure, cannabis is an effective treatment for glaucoma."

Apr. 3, 2014 - Denver Relief 



Thomas Orvald, MD, a cardiac surgeon, stated the following in a YouTube video he created with the Hemp & Cannabis Foundation, uploaded on Apr. 29, 2009:

"The treatment for glaucoma is to somehow get the [intraocular] pressure down within the globe [of the eye]. It just so happens that one of the many virtues of cannabis is that it has the capability of decreasing intraocular pressure… Cannabis is a very effective way, used properly, to decrease the pressure within the eye and to preserve this wonderful retina back here that transcribes all the visual sights into the brain."

Apr. 29, 2009 - Thomas Orvald, MD 



Medicine in Bloom, a information website run by a medical marijuana dispensary, stated the following in an article on its website titled "Glaucoma," available at medicineinbloom.com (accessed Apr. 3, 2014)

"Medical marijuana's primary benefit for glaucoma patients is its effect on intraocular pressure (IOP). In one study, more than 80% of patients who smoked marijuana using an ice-cooled water pipe experienced a reduction in IOP of 16-45%. Another study used cannabinoids contained in medicinal marijuana, and found a significant drop in IOP in patients who took THC and cannabidiol. A third clinical trial also found that medical marijuana reduces intraocular pressure, as well as blood pressure overall...

If you're interested in trying medical marijuana for your glaucoma, you're in very good company. Glaucoma is among the most common medical conditions treated with medicinal marijuana. There is no cure for glaucoma, but with your ophthalmologist's guidance, you can combine medical marijuana with traditional glaucoma drugs to create an effective treatment plan to delay or avoid surgical intervention."

Apr. 3, 2014 - Medicine in Bloom 



GW Pharmaceuticals stated the following in an article titled "Glaucoma," written by the company's Cannabinoid Research Institute and posted in the "Research & Development" section of its website (first accessed in Jan. 2004 but now available only in an archived cache of the website dated Apr. 4, 2004 via archive.org)

"The ability of cannabis and THC to lower intra-ocular pressure in glaucoma was serendipitously discovered in the late 1970's by a variety of patients and researchers. Several patients in the US Compassionate Use Investigational New Drug Program maintained their vision while employing large amounts of daily cannabis in situations where standard drug therapy failed...

An emerging concept is that glaucoma represents a progressive vascular retinopathy that requires a neuroprotectant to preserve vision. Some of the resulting optic nerve damage accrues due to NMDA hyperexcitability, an effect that THC and CBD may counter as neuroprotective antioxidants.

Thus, glaucoma is an area where cannabis and cannabinoids may offer particular advantages over available single ingredient ocular anti-hypertensive agents."

Apr. 4, 2004 - GW Pharmaceuticals 



Paul Palmberg, MD, PhD, a glaucoma expert and National Institute of Health (NIH) medical marijuana panelist, said at a Feb. 20, 1997 conference:

"I don't think there's any doubt about its [marijuana] effectiveness, at least in some people with glaucoma."

Feb. 20, 1997 - Paul F. Palmberg, MD, PhD 



CON (no)

The Glaucoma Research Foundation stated the following in its Apr. 24, 2012 article titled "Medical Marijuana," available on its website and confirmed as current position on Apr. 7, 2014:

"Advocates of medicinal marijuana cite evidence that hemp products can lower intraocular pressure (IOP) in people with glaucoma. However, these products are less effective than medicines prescribed by an eye doctor.

The high dose of marijuana necessary to produce a clinically relevant effect on IOP in the short term requires constant inhalation, as much as every three hours.

The number of significant side effects generated by long-term oral use of marijuana or long-term inhalation of marijuana smoke make marijuana a poor choice in the treatment of glaucoma, a chronic disease requiring proven and effective treatment...

To date, no studies have shown that marijuana— or any of its approximately 400 chemical components—can safely and effectively lower intraocular pressure better than the variety of drugs currently on the market."

Apr. 7, 2014 - Glaucoma Research Foundation 



The American Academy of Ophthalmology Complementary Therapy Task Force stated the following in its June 2013 report titled "Complementary Therapy Assessment: Marijuana in the Treatment of Glaucoma," available at one.aao.org and confirmed as current position on Apr. 7, 2014:

"Based on reviews by the National Eye Institute (NEI), the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and on available scientific evidence, the American Academy of Ophthalmology Complementary Therapy Task Force finds no scientific evidence demonstrating increased benefit and/or diminished risk of marijuana use in the treatment of glaucoma compared with the wide variety of pharmaceutical agents now available...

Potentially serious side effects associated with smoking marijuana include an increased heart rate and a decrease in blood pressure. Studies of single-administration marijuana use have shown a lowering of blood pressure concurrent with the lowering of IOP. This raises concerns that there may be compromised blood flow to the optic nerve, but no data have been published on the long-term systemic and ocular effects from the use of marijuana by patients with glaucoma."

Apr. 7, 2014 - American Academy of Ophthalmology 



The American Glaucoma Society stated the following in its Aug. 10, 2009 "Position Statement on the Marijuana and the Treatment of Glaucoma," available on its website on confirmed as current position on Apr. 7, 2014:

"[T]he mainstay of treatment for glaucoma patients is lowering the IOP [intraocular pressure]... Although marijuana can lower the intraocular pressure (IOP), its side effects and short duration of action, coupled with a lack of evidence that it use alters the course of glaucoma, preclude recommending this drug in any form for the treatment of glaucoma at the present time."

Apr. 7, 2014 - American Glaucoma Society 



The American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates stated the following in its June 2001 "Report of the Council on Scientific Affairs," available on the AMA website:

"Although smoked marijuana reduces intraocular pressure, its clinical utility in glaucoma is compromised by its short duration of action and accompanying central side effects. Furthermore, the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and CNS [central nervous system] effects of marijuana are of great concern given that glaucoma is a chronic illness and a large number of patients are elderly. Additionally, the ability of marijuana or THC to protect the optic nerve has not been studied...

Neither smoked marijuana nor THC is a viable approach in the treatment of glaucoma, but research on their mechanism of action may be important in developing new agents that act in an additive or synergistic manner with currently available therapies."

June 2001 - American Medical Association (AMA) 



The Institute of Medicine's Mar. 1999 report "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base" stated on page 177:

"High intraocular pressure (IOP) is a known risk factor for glaucoma and can, indeed, be reduced by cannabinoids and marijuana. However, the effect is too short lived and requires too high doses, and there are too many side effects to recommend lifelong use in the treatment of glaucoma. The potential harmful effects of chronic marijuana smoking outweigh its modest benefits in the treatment of glaucoma."

Mar. 1999 - Institute of Medicine 
"Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base" (988 KB)  



Liz Segrè, Editorial Director for AllAboutVision.com, stated the following in a sidebar of an article titled "Glaucoma Treatment: Eye Drops and Other Medications," published by AllAboutVision.com in Jan. 2012:

"[N]o research has found that marijuana is anywhere near as effective as legal glaucoma medications...

The American Academy of Ophthalmology, among other authoritative sources, says the risky side effects of marijuana (such as lowered blood pressure, increased heart rate, poor pregnancy outcomes, poor motor coordination, impaired memory and increased risk of cancer and emphysema) far outweigh any benefit.

Popular opinion persistently exaggerates the benefit of marijuana for glaucoma.

This is unfortunate, because people who use marijuana instead of their prescribed glaucoma medication run a big risk of having irreversible vision loss."

Jan. 2012 - Liz Segrè