regulated by the circulation of a clear fluid, the aqueous humor,* between the front of the lens and the back of the cornea. Because of impaired outflow of aqueous humor from the anterior chamber of the eye, a high IOP is a risk factor for glaucoma, but the mechanism by which it damages the optic nerve and retinal ganglion cells remains unclear.174 The two leading possibilities are that high IOP interferes with nutrient blood flow to the region of the optic nerve or that it interferes with transport of nutrients, growth factors, and other compounds within the optic nerve axon (P. Kaufman, IOM workshop). If the interference continues, the retinal ganglion cells and optic nerve will permanently atrophy; the result is blindness.68 Because high IOP is the only known major risk factor that can be controlled, most treatments have been designed to reduce it. However, reducing it does not always arrest or slow the progression of visual loss.20,109
Marijuana and THC have been shown to reduce IOP by an average of 24% in people with normal IOP who have visual-field changes. In a number of studies of healthy adults and glaucoma patients, IOP was reduced by an average of 25% after smoking a marijuana cigarette that contained approximately 2% THCa reduction as good as that observed with most other medications available today.1,16,32,76,77,125,193 Similar responses have been observed when marijuana was eaten or THC was given in pill form (10-40 mg) to healthy adults or glaucoma patients.76,91 But the effect lasts only about three to four hours. Elevated IOP is a chronic condition and must be controlled continuously.
Intravenous administration of D9-THC, D8-THC, or 11-OH-THC to healthy adults substantially decreased IOP, whereas cannabinol, CBD, and b-OH-THC had little effect.31,146 The cause for the reduction in IOP remains unknown, but the effect appears to be independent of the frequently observed drop in arterial systolic blood pressure (Keith Green, Medical College of Georgia, personal communication).
Three synthetic cannabinoids were investigated; BW29Y, BW146Y, and nabilone. They were given orally to patients who had high IOP. BW146Y and nabilone were as effective as ingesting THC or smoking
*The cornea and lens must be optically clear, which means that there cannot be blood circulation in these tissues. The aqueous humor is a clear fluid that functions as alternative circulation across the rear of the cornea and to the lens, providing nutrients and removing waste from these tissues.