Illegal drug use associated with prediabetes, according to new study

by Barbara Hewitt on September 16, 2015

People who use marijuana, an illegal drug in many parts of the world, may be more likely to develop pre-diabetes than those who have never smoked it, new research has suggested.

The drug, also widely known as cannabis, continues to be used and has even been cited as a source of pain relief for some conditions, but it is its well known side effect of making users hungry that could play a role in prediabetes.

US researchers find cannabis can help control blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics

Pot use linked to pre-diabetes, according to new study

The drug is a notorious appetite stimulant creating a term known as “the munchies” which often leads users to eat energy rich, nutritiously poor snacks, such as crisps and sweets and it is this trait that could lead to prediabetes where a person has abnormally high blood sugar levels, but not high enough to become type 2 diabetes.

The study led by a team at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that chronic marijuana use during young adulthood increases the risk of prediabetes in middle age people by up to 40%.

It assessed 3,000 people over an 18 year period but the researchers were unable to find out exactly how the drug affects blood sugar levels. They said marijuana use was associated with the development and prevalence of prediabetes after adjustment. Specifically, occurrence of prediabetes in middle adulthood was significantly elevated for individuals who reported using marijuana in excess of 100 times by young adulthood.

However, there were no significant links between cannabis use and type 2 diabetes. It seems that it is the diet resulting from marijuana use that is linked to prediabetes rather than the drug use itself and the study could not prove direct cause and effect.

A breakdown of the findings show that factors associated with cannabis use were being male, of white ethnicity, greater reported smoking, alcohol and other substance use, and greater physical activity. Higher educational attainment and a higher BMI were factors associated with less cannabis use.

By the age of 24, some 45% of the participants, 1,193, had pre-diabetes and 357 had type 2 diabetes. There were no significant links between pre-diabetes and former cannabis use. When broken down into frequency of use, there was a trend for increased lifetime use to be associated with an increased risk of pre-diabetes.

“Marijuana [cannabis] use in young adulthood is associated with an increased risk of pre-diabetes by middle adulthood, but not with the development of diabetes by this age,” the study concluded.

They pointed out, however, that there is also the possibility when questioning people about their use of illegal substances that they may report never using them, when in fact they have. This sample of US citizens used may not be representative of everyone and patterns of cannabis use during the ’80s and ’90s may differ from use of the substance today.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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