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From Manhattan Beach, California, USA:

My 16 year old son has been smoking marijuana. His mother approves of this. I have been told that marijuana causes serious complications to the body parts. Do you have any concrete information that I could share with her of the harmful efforts marijuana has on a type 1 diabetic? His A1c has been around 12 the last three years.


An A1c of 12 is disastrously high. His risks for all of the diabetes associated complications are enormous. Values this high almost always mean omission of insulin coupled with poor or non monitoring of blood glucose, major dietary problems or some combinations. Marijuana use/abuse could be symptomatic of such depressive, poor self-esteem issues.

Specific issues re: marijuana and diabetes as follows:

  1. It's illegal.

  2. It is highly toxic to the lungs and filled with carcinogens and contaminants of all kinds.

  3. It raises blood sugar levels, but only to a minor degree.

  4. It interferes with brain function so that any decisions related to diabetes care would then be suspect.

  5. When the brain is clouded by any drugs, including marijuana, mild hypoglycemia may be ignored and become more severe.

  6. If there is also beer, other alcohol, or overeating, all such decisions would have direct implications for glucose levels. Any decisions about insulin, ketone checking, sleeping too late, over and undereating would then be less than ideal.

There are more details/specifics in a book I edited published in 1987: Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes Mellitus. The chapter is written by Harold Starkman. Unfortunately, the book is no longer in print, but you should be able to get a copy from the library. It is from Year Book Medical Publishers.


Additional comments from Debbie Butler, MSW, LICSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker:

Using marijuana is not legal at any age in the United States, which needs to be emphasized. In terms of diabetes related effects, like alcohol, marijuana can cause both high and low blood sugars. In high doses, marijuana can cause a low blood sugar, but, generally, high blood sugars are more of a risk. Marijuana can stimulate a person’s appetite causing a large amount of food consumption, which can cause high blood sugars. Marijuana can also cause apathy, which can negatively impact on an individual’s diabetes management plan (i.e. missing insulin, miscalculating insulin doses, and forgetting to check blood sugars). Long-term marijuana use can cause confusion and paranoia and can effect coordination, short-term memory, and concentration. Like alcohol, marijuana can also impair judgment. Some people use marijuana to self-medicate for other problems, which usually makes problems worse. Marijuana is also another "gateway drug" that can lead to more serious drug use.


Original posting 3 Nov 2004
Posted to Other and A1c, Glycohemoglobin, HgbA1c


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:10:00
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