WARNING: This post talks about drugs that may be illegal in some jurisdictions. I do not encourage illegal activity as the use of marijuana is still considered an offense under U.S federal law.
Find out if cannabis is legal in your state here
Marijuana has been a polarizing topic of conversation for a long time so I want to provide some context. This post is not encouraging the use of marijuana. This is my own personal account that I want to share with anyone curious about using it, as it has become much more common and normalized in recent years.
In this post you’ll find:
I was never taught about marijuana and diabetes growing up. I wasn’t even taught much about alcohol and diabetes (check out my posts about drinking here). But the purpose of Balance & Bolus is to share what it’s like balancing Type 1 Diabetes and being a twenty-something. To me, being a twenty-something means being social, adventurous, and having fun. So it’s only rational to think that maybe along the way someone with a broken pancreas might be exposed to marijuana and I want to prepare them for if and when that day comes.
Twelve states in the United States have fully legalized marijuana, including my home state of California. I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area; home to the Hippie Movement and Haight-Ashbury, and did the majority of my schooling here. Towards the end of college, I used marijuana in the form of flowers and edibles to feel relaxed after a long day of working and studying. I believe that weed can be used in the correct moderation, like alcohol, to relieve stress. I was always shy to ask my non-diabetic doctors about marijuana and diabetes so I had to find out for myself. I took it slow and made sure to never use it to the extent that I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself. Marijuana alters one's perception of things, and like with alcohol, puts one under the influence.
TLDR*: I am not promoting the use of marijuana for Type 1 Diabetics. This is my personal account of marijuana use with Type 1 Diabetes. I don’t think anyone should be using marijuana illegally as it is still illegal in the majority of the states in the United States. Marijuana should be used in moderation and when the user feels like they have full control over their diabetes.
*Too Long Didn't Read
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana, also known as cannabis and a handful of other names, is a plant that consists of cannabinoids which are the active ingredients responsible for the plants' medicinal properties. The two popular cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC is the psychoactive part of the plant that gives the proper high feeling that Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson really like while CBD has a weaker effect and is what Karen from Pilates used to get rid of her inflammation.
The plant is harvested and dried and sold in buds, known as flower, to be rolled into joints, packed into bowls, or baked into tasty treats referred to as edibles. Cannabis is widely used to combat anxious feelings, chronic pain, and loss of appetite.
There are two main strains of the plant that have distinct side effects. Sativa is the strain that is uplifting, gives energy and a euphoric feeling while Indica is a mellower strain that helps with sleep and gives that couch-locked feeling. There are also hybrids and different percentages of THC available to make each strain different and to provide the perfect high.
What are the Side Effects of Marijuana?
The different strains of marijuana hold the different side effects listed below. The THC in marijuana produces very individual psychological reactions.
What does it mean for a Type 1 Diabetic?
Now, this is probably the most important but also challenging thing I’ve found with the usage of cannabis and diabetes. Food. Marijuana is notorious for giving its user an increased appetite. A bag of popcorn doesn’t last long with mindless handfuls every few minutes. I try to keep low-carb or high-fat/protein snacks ready to go when using cannabis.
-Strawberries with almond butter
-Mixed nuts; almonds, cashews with different flavors!
-Cucumbers with hummus
-Vegan Jerky/Beef Jerky
Another tip that I've found helpful is keeping a huge water bottle with me because most of the time I'm not actually hungry and this helps curb the appetite.
Blood Glucose Levels
Cannabis use has never affected my Blood Glucose levels drastically. Though a study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2013, found that marijuana use in diabetics resulted in lower levels of fasting insulin. This means that people have seen lower BG levels happen with marijuana use. I have met other diabetics who have said the same thing, but the decrease in BG is nothing immediate nor severe.
Marijuana makes you feel funny. "High" or "low" Blood Glucose levels might feel different or you may not feel them at all. I also find myself zoning out on a good book or T.V show and becoming a little forgetful, this is why it's important to not overdo it so that way there are no missed insulin doses.
Just like when you’re consuming alcohol, be aware of your surroundings and how you’re feeling. Everyone handles marijuana differently so I don’t recommend comparing your intake to another person's. Remember not to give in to pressure from the people around you. Giving in to pressure won’t make the experience fun. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Listen to your body just like in everything you do. By listening to my body when using marijuana, I have found I don’t need much to feel the effects and then can better take care of my diabetes during its use. I also believe that just like alcohol, cannabis shouldn’t be used until the diabetic feels comfortable and like they have full control over their diabetes.
I grew up in a household that was anti-cannabis so I understand that reading this might be shocking or uncomfortable. I’m still in the same household and times have changed. With the legalization of marijuana comes a more controlled use among consumers. There are dispensaries with professionals who can help their customers find the perfect strain for the effect they desire and edibles are made in small dosages to help people reach a desired high. I believe the use is a lot safer than in the past.
I hope this post answer any questions one might be having on navigating the use of cannabis with Type 1 Diabetes. I don't see this topic covered as much as alcohol and diabetes area because the plant is still at the center of a lot of controversy in many places.