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blocked the effects of THC or other cannabinoids. If the decrease were shown to be receptor mediated, it would be important to know whether it was through CB1, which mediates central nervous system effects, or CB2, which is not involved in CNS effects. If it were CB2, it might be possible to reduce IOP without the CNS side effects. Finally, it is not known whether the endogenous cannabinoid system is a natural regulator of IOP.

Conclusion: Glaucoma

Although glaucoma is one of the most frequently cited medical indications for marijuana, the data do not support this indication. High intraocular pressure (IOP) is a known risk factor for glaucoma and can, indeed, be reduced by cannabinoids and marijuana. However, the effect is too and short lived and requires too high doses, and there are too many side effects to recommend lifelong use in the treatment of glaucoma. The potential harmful effects of chronic marijuana smoking outweigh its modest benefits in the treatment of glaucoma. Clinical studies on the effects of smoked marijuana are unlikely to result in improved treatment for glaucoma.

Future research might reveal a therapeutic effect of isolated cannabinoids. For example, it might be possible to design a cannabinoid drug with longer-lasting effects on IOP and with less psychoactivity than THC.


Advances in cannabinoid science of the past 16 years have given rise to a wealth of new opportunities for the development of medically useful cannabinoid-based drugs. The accumulated data suggest a variety of indications, particularly for pain relief, antiemesis, and appetite stimulation. For patients such as those with AIDS or who are undergoing chemotherapy, and who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might offer broad-spectrum relief not found in any other single medication. The data are weaker for muscle spasticity but moderately promising. The least promising categories are movement disorders, epilepsy, and glaucoma. Animal data are moderately supportive of a potential for cannabinoids in the treatment of movement disorders and might eventually yield stronger encouragement. The therapeutic effects of cannabinoids are most well established for THC, which is the primary psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. But it does not follow from this that smoking marijuana is good medicine.

Although marijuana smoke delivers THC and other cannabinoids to the body, it also delivers harmful substances, including most of those found in tobacco smoke. In addition, plants contain a variable mixture of

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