Cannabis, or marijuana, is now legal for adult use in Canada, and new research is shedding light on its health effects in people with diabetes.
In November 2018, JAMA Internal Medicine reported that people with type 1 diabetes who have used cannabis within the past year may have a higher risk for diabetic ketoacidosis compared with non-users.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a dangerous complication that is the result of high blood sugar levels and excess ketones (acids created when fat is broken down to be used for energy). The body normally gets rid of excess ketones through the urine. However, if levels in the body get too high, they can lead to a coma and even death.
The JAMA report was based on a survey of 450 adults with type 1 diabetes at a diabetes clinic in Colorado, where the use of cannabis is legal. Thirty per cent of the survey participants said they had used cannabis in the previous year. This use was associated with almost double the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis compared with non-use.
The authors of the report suggest that cannabis may affect the digestive system and cause severe vomiting, which may play a role in the increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis. They add, “Further research is needed to confirm these findings and understand the effects and adverse consequences of cannabis use in patients with type 1 diabetes.”
Did you know?
Diabetic ketoacidosis often occurs as a complication of other illnesses. Read Stay Safe When You Have Diabetes and Are Sick or at Risk of Dehydration for tips on how to manage your diabetes during an illness, and when to call your health-care provider.
(This article appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Spring 2019)