Type 1 diabetics may be at significantly higher risks of developing complication if they consume cannabis.
A new study from the University of Colorado has found links between marijuana use and increased risk of ketoacidosis—a complication the occurs when blood sugar levels are elevated for too long—in Type 1 diabetics.
The study surveyed 450 Type 1 diabetes patients and found that those who reported cannabis consumption where nearly twice as likely to develop the potentially fatal complication. If untreated, ketoacidosis can lead to dehydration and brain swelling that could lead to coma or death.
"Diabetic ketoacidosis is an emergency and patient with diabetes should go to [the] emergency room if they have symptoms," Dr. said Viral Shah, the study's lead author.
These new findings goes against previous research that suggests cannabis consumption may be beneficial to patients with the more common Type 2 diabetes. For people with Type 2, cannabis may actually help them reduce their blood sugar levels and make their insulin more effective.
The researchers aren't sure why diabetics who consume cannabis are at higher risk of ketoacidosis, and they say more work needs to be done in order to figure out what the exact relationship is. Still, Type 1 diabetes patients should take caution say some experts.
"Why cannabis would increase the likelihood of diabetic ketoacidosis is unknown," Dr. Annemarie Hennessy, dean of the School of Medicine at Western Sydney University in Australia, a researcher not involved with the study, said. "But we have also shown that in the presence of cannabis, the diabetic ketoacidosis is harder to diagnose, and therefore it may be missed, with deadly consequences."
So, until the relationship between cannabis and this dangerous diabetes complication is better understood, diabetics might want to smoke with discretion.