Marijuana and Type 1 Diabetes

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Warning: Content within discusses drugs that are illegal in some jurisdictions. Beyond Type 1 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under US federal law.

From Cheech and Chong to Nancy Botwin on Weeds, marijuana has had its share of the spotlight over the years. Legislative consensus is “half baked” with 29 states having legalized medical marijuana (nine of which legalized it for recreational purposes, ages 21+). That means in more than half the states in the US, you can use pot medicinally. Legal or not, depending on where you live and what your ailment or aim is, it doesn’t mean “everybody must get stoned.” It does mean though, if you’re going to “puff the magic dragon,” you should know a few things first. Like dude…what about marijuana and Type 1 diabetes? These are the must-knows and things to consider when it comes to ganja.

What’s the law?

Find out where it’s legal in the USA here.

What are the side effects of marijuana?

Like any other drug, marijuana is a mind-altering substance, which is to say, you act, think or feel differently on it. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical known to cause marijuana’s psychological effects. Some report feeling no effect, but this is uncommon. Different stains (types) of marijuana and different ways in which to consume it can also produce varying effects. While your reaction is individual, you should know the wide range of side effects that you could experience when under the influence of marijuana.

You could feel…

  • relaxed
  • euphoric
  • sleepy
  • talkative
  • anxious
  • paranoid
  • thirsty
  • hungry

What are the long-term effects of marijuana?

Because marijuana is not legal under federal law in the US and in other parts of the world, there is still a lack of extensive research on the long-term effects of the drug. According to the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Agency in the US), these are some of the possible negative effects of the drug:

  • lack of coordination
  • apathy
  • sedation
  • disorientation
  • loss of short-term memory
  • lung damage (if smoked)

What are the different ways to consume marijuana?

Marijuana may be…

  • Smoked – know that smoking anything that is burnt is bad for the lungs because of the many chemicals you are inhaling in the process. It can also negatively effect other parts of the body.
  • Vaporized – is where the dried plant is heated (not burned), which extracts the THC (the active chemical) from the plant for inhalation.
  • Eaten – you should know that when eaten, the effects of marijuana are delayed and can be more intense when absorbed through the stomach. The timeframe in which you feel the effects of it vary and depend on quantity, frequency of consumption as well as your metabolism. (Someone with a fast metabolism may feel the effect within an hour whereas if your metabolism is slower, it could take two or more hours to take effect.) This is why you should be careful not to dose extra in the case of “edibles” when the effect is simply delayed.

What does it mean for someone with Type 1 diabetes?

Apart from the basic considerations already mentioned, there are some things to consider when it comes to your Type 1 diabetes. Here are some additional pointers to keep in mind:

  • Be aware of altered perception – like alcohol, if you’re under the influence of a mind-altering substance, you may not be able to recognize if you’re feeling “low” or “high” in terms of your blood glucose levels. Know that your general perception may be inaccurate or faulty.
  • Check your BGLs frequently – because of altered perception, you should check your blood sugar at regular intervals to be sure you’re in a safe range.
  • Keep your equipment nearby – for your convenience and ability to test when needed
  • Bolus for “munchies” – because hunger can be a side effect of marijuana, you may want to eat … a lot, so be sure to give yourself insulin for exactly what you plan to consume. (You know the drill.)
  • Don’t forget “edible” carbs – this may seem obvious, but while the forms of smoked or vaporized marijuana have no carbs, your edibles do. A “pot cookie” for example has the carbs that any other cookie would, so give yourself insulin accordingly. If you buy from a dispensary, dietary details may be labeled, but if they’re not, you will have to decide for yourself.

As with using any substance, be aware of your surroundings and your body. Take extra precautions to stay safe and capable of successfully managing your diabetes. And remember, don’t feel pressured to try something that you don’t feel comfortable trying. The decision is up to you, and you alone.


Here’s what actual Type 1s had to say about marijuana –

“I thought I was dying. I was convinced I needed an ambulance. I ate like three McChickens without bolusing and woke up at 450.” – Josh, 18
 
K: “I’ve always said I can’t smoke because I have diabetes, but I’ve heard that it doesn’t actually affect T1D at all.”
K’s endo: “It literally does nothing to diabetes.”
  
“When I smoke my BG ends up going high because I get the munchies and eat everything.” – Jesse, 23
  
“I am always so scared to crash low after drinking that I never really have fun because I get so worried. In my opinion smoking is way better than drinking if you are a Type 1. There is no sugar or carbs in smoke, so you don’t get that effect of going really high then crashing back down later, even though you did no insulin. I prefer smoking to drinking because I actually feel safer and more in control of my T1D.” – Molly, 24
  
“Smoking always makes my blood sugar go low naturally. I start smoking and then it just slowly creeps down, so I always have to be careful to either suspend my pump or have some sugar. There have been a lot of studies that show that smoking helps Type 2 Diabetes and helps lower insulin levels and resistance. I guess it applies to Type 1 too.” – Katie, 18
  
“I get what I like to call the “gradual munchies.” I just sort of slowly snack on everything over a long period of time, and since I never eat more than a handful of something at once I never properly carb count or do the right amount of insulin. My BG always ends up going high.” – Matt, 28

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