Cannabis and Diabetes

Writer’s Note: Insight Diabetes does not encourage the use, purchase or sale of any illegal substance.
The possession sale or use of cannabis is illegal under UK laws and in many other countries across the world.
Information on this site is intended to help keep people safe, focused more so on people with diabetes who wish to consume cannabis despite its legality.

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis also known as Marijuana is a cannabinoid drug. Cannabis derives from the plant species Cannabis-sativa, which contains 2  active chemicals called; CBD which is well known for its anxiety-relieving effects and much more which would require a whole post in itself to cover, and THC which is well known for its mind-altering effects.
Also known as weed, pot, grass and many other creative names you could think of referring to a plant/herb, it can be consumed by most commonly rolling and smoking it with or without tobacco, vaped and eaten in the form of sweets and most popularly brownies.
Note that some of the basics are down, we’ll get to discussing what as a diabetic you need to know about cannabis should you wish to consume anything containing the main psychoactive ingredient TCH, and how to keep you safe and well.


The effects of Cannabis

As mentioned above cannabis contains 2 main active chemicals THC and CBD, the levels of each chemical vary between species of plant some with higher amounts of THC and vice versa. Commonly THC is the sought-after chemical as it is the most psychoactive and the one that gets you ‘high’. The THC found in cannabis alters the chemistry in your brain and how the receptors in your brain signal out to the rest of your body. For this reason, most countries keep it illegal, with those who have legalised it have set very strict laws on recreational use, most commonly the legal age requirement is 21 years old. New studies have found that our brains don’t stop developing fully until we are 30 years old and not 25 which is most commonly accepted, due to this, adding mind-altering chemicals to still young and developing brains could be cause for concern in the long run as there are very little studies exploring what the long term effects are but you can assume not good.

The effects of cannabis on your brain and body can vary immensely depending on a few factors, which are;

  • The amount of cannabis consumed and strain of plant
  • How you consumed it (Vaping etc.)
  • Combinations of other drugs/substances or medications you may be taking (we will focus on how your insulin may affect you when consuming cannabis)

Due to some of the points listed the effects can also vary drastically depending on the individual taking it, with this in mind not one person can assume that they will have a positive reaction to the drug, after consuming it you may feel relaxed, happy, tired and talkative. However you could also feel Anxious and paranoid, thirsty, hungry, nauseated, and possibly shaky which could feel like a hypoglycaemic event in some cases, this is one of the main reasons you will need someone sober and knowledgeable enough to assist you with diabetes care should you choose to consume the drug.

Furthermore, after the consumption of cannabis the substance can remain in your body for up to 30 days, this depends on the frequency of use paired with the dosage of the substance. This also means that changes to your brain chemistry also remain present within this time period, with reports of some people feeling an increased sensation of anxiety or bouts of memory issues while others have reported feeling calmer and generally more positive. Lastly, this can also mean if your job requires drug tests you WILL test positive if you have consumed the substance and taken a test within 30 days of each other, which is why if the substance is illegal where you are, don’t take it – experimenting with this drug can lead to major life changes – Consult a medical professional if you need help on deciding whether to take it or not or if you need help stopping.

There is a plethora of different studies being conducted today on how THC and CBD impact the human body and more specifically the endocannabinoid system, this system is responsible for aiding the body in regulating important bodily functions such as pain, appetite and mood.

Consumption Methods

The impact and effects of cannabis also vary considerably based on which method you chose to consume it. The main reason why people would choose different methods of consumption is mainly to give them more control over the intensity of the high they get and how fast they get high.

Inhaling: Cannabis can be inhaled in many different ways however the most common are smoking it or vaporising (vaping), when inhaling the drug its effects can ‘kick in’ very fast and reaching its peak in minutes to a couple of hours.

When inhaling cannabis, it can impact your BG (Blood Glucose) levels very quickly, in some reports people have seen their BG levels drop almost immediately after consumption. The effects typically last up to 4 hours and up to 3 days after with the most common symptom being “Brain Fog” most commonly referred to as bad memory or low attention span. Due to inhaling being the most common method of consumption due to its almost immediate effects, the strain and amount of cannabis will also dictate the speed at which the effects take place and the intensity of the ‘high’.

Be aware that smoking anything will damage your lungs, due to the various chemicals added to any product that requires you to inhale it – DO NOT TRUST VAPING/SMOKING COMPANIES THAT SAY IT’S SAFE IT’S JUST AS BAD AS CONVENTIONAL TOBACCO SMOKING.

Eaten: Consuming cannabis in its edible form is growing in popularity recently due to the various ways it can be prepared. Cannabis can be cooked as long as it’s combined with a source of fat such as milk or cooking oil, which can, in turn, be added to brownies, sweets, milk tea and many various foods. Often reported when eaten the effects of cannabis can be very delayed and much more intense and last a lot longer in comparison to inhaling, with some people reporting still feeling ‘high’ up to 8 hours after consumption.

As we get into the details of the different types of foods available that are cannabis-infused we will be referring to the most popular which are brownies and gummies. Edibles, as you can imagine similar to inhaling, can have a dramatic effect on your experience, however, unlike inhaling cannabis the strain used and amount used in preparation can drastically affect the user. The average dosage in edibles usually yields about 10mg of THC per serving, this is of course assuming whoever prepared the edibles did so by American dispensary standards which in particular would be very difficult to confirm if you are from the UK or any other country that has the substance banned. With that being said I think it is clear to say that you should probably not buy any from dodgy street dealers claiming it’s safe.

When consuming any form of edible please understand clearly that you are still eating carbohydrates and sugars, so you will need to dose insulin accordingly. Before taking your regular dose of insulin you have to bear in mind that cannabis can make some people a lot more insulin sensitive, so you might need to dose slightly less than usual.

What to expect as a diabetic

When consuming cannabis as you can imagine has severe effects on your cognitive abilities. “Cannabis use has been shown to impair cognitive functions on several levels—from basic motor coordination to more complex executive function tasks, such as the ability to plan, organize, solve problems, make decisions, remember, and control emotions and behaviour.”– When planning to consume cannabis in any form especially if you have any chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, that you consider the following recommendations:

Start SMALL: Cannabis, like many other substances, affects its users differently, especially when you are experimenting with strains and edibles. You will not know how much to take if this is your first time. As mentioned briefly cannabis consumption can make you more insulin sensitive and some of the feelings of being ‘high’ can feel similar to or even be the same as some Hypoglycaemic (Shaky/Sweaty hands, heightened feelings of anxiety, confused/disoriented) or Hyperglycaemic symptoms (Thirst, dry skin, mood changes), these feeling and effects can happen randomly and inconsistently you only increase the odds of such feelings when increasing dose or changing strain of cannabis.

BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS AND INSULIN: Before consuming know your blood sugar levels and how much insulin you have dosed, it is best not to consume cannabis too soon after taking fast acting insulin as you may be a bit confused on how much to top up and when. This goes without saying now being ‘high’ will make you feel at least one or more symptoms of either low or high sugar and with a possible increased sensitivity to insulin, you must make sure to frequently Check your blood sugar levels with a BGM (Blood Glucose Monitor) and not a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor), I say this as CGMs monitor your interstitial fluid (ISF), a thin layer of fluid that surrounds the cells of tissues under your skin, and not your blood which can result in slightly less accurate readings of your current blood sugar levels as opposed to a BGM which will provide you with an up to date accurate blood glucose reading. It is important to also have fast-acting sugars such as a Sugary sports drink or some form of fast-acting carb in case of a hypo. Also ensure you have someone with you that will stay sober and know how to help you in the event of a severe hypo, or how to assist you with panic attacks in some cases as the cannabis ‘high’ can mimic the feeling of a hypo and increase levels of anxiety in some people.

Want to get ‘high’ alone? Don’t. I cannot stress this enough, do not attempt to consume any mind-altering drugs alone, especially if you have a chronic illness like diabetes, it is important to understand when under the influence of anything mind-altering ‘basic’ things can become extremely difficult to accomplish, such as checking your blood sugar and understanding what is on the screen and what it means for you.

Make sure you are not alone and in a safe and comfortable environment, have at least one person who you trust that knows how to recognise the signs of high and most importantly low blood sugar, and has promised to stay sober enough to be able to assist you if needed. (Please take note if you are this person, this doesn’t mean in case of emergency, this means reminding them to check their sugar and advise them based on those results.)

What diabetics can tell you…

If you or a friend has a chronic illness and wishes to contribute to this section of the blog post be it publicly or anonymously please feel free to do so via our Contact Us form (if you want to remain anonymous you can just fill in your name as ‘anon’) and don’t spare the details on the advice even if it feels very specific, it could help someone somewhere.

I am very new to blog writing and would appreciate any feedback, please leave any comments, ideas or inquiries for more information below and I will do my best to update the blog or just respond to comments.

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By Lee M

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