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Getting high not the solution for glaucoma 1

Dr André Horak


Weed is not the solution for glaucoma

It may come as a surprise to some, but smoking cannabis (marijuana) is not actually recommended for the treatment of glaucoma. Dr Sunita Radhakrishnan, research director of the Glaucoma Research and Education Group in the US, spoke at a recent gathering of ophthalmologists to warn against using cannabis, in spite of its growing legalisation. In the US, cannabis is legal in several states for recreational and/or medical use. While Federal law in Australia has recently permitted cannabis for medical use, it is up to the individual state to determine which patients, if any, will be able to access it.2

The pro

  • Known to have lowered intraocular pressure (IOP) for a short period in some situations.

The cons

  • No long-term studies evaluating efficacy and safety
  • Variable effect
  • Optimal route of administration undetermined
  • Lack of quality control
  • Serious potential side-effects, including:
    • Addiction
    • Structural brain changes
    • Decreased brain function and IQ
    • Development of psychotic disorders
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
    • Increased risk of car accidents.

With other glaucoma treatments widely available, comprehensively studied and posing zero risk of addiction, any justification for recommending cannabis to patients simply does not exist. All ophthalmologists have a duty of care to make this clear to patients in light of the recent legalisation of cannabis for medical use by the Australian Government.

‘It [smoking cannabis to treat glaucoma] has been approved by public opinion, rather than regulatory process.’

Dr Radhakrishnan

Data do not support the contention that marijuana should be used to treat glaucoma3

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine

Dr André Horak is a highly experienced general ophthalmologist, cataract and vitreoretinal surgeon. He has expertise in treating the full range of retinal conditions, including eye floaters. Dr Horak practices at Vision Eye Institute Mackay.


  1. https://www.odc.gov.au/medicinal-cannabis. Accessed online 23 February 2017.
  2. https://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=6376. Accessed online 21 February 2017.

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