When you hear the term medical marijuana, you often think of various scenarios where cannabis is used to help improve medical conditions or alleviate certain symptoms. Medical marijuana is used to ease chronic pain and muscle spasms in people with MS, reduce nausea in cancer patients, soothe anxiety and minimize seizures, among other benefits. But what about your vision, especially at night? But, could it be that cannabis improves night vision?
It might not seem like a crucial skill, in fact, night vision almost sounds like a super power. But you need to be able to see in low light situations and in the dark so you can do a number of tasks safely, including drive and walk down the street at night. And research has shown that cannabis — yes, the same cannabis that gets you high — can improve night vision by making cells in your retina more sensitive to light.
How Cannabis Improves Night Vision
A 2004 study investigated the impact of cannabis on night vision after noticing that groups of fishermen in Jamaica and Morocco had improved vision after consuming various types of cannabis. The research was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, and found that after testing night vision capabilities among subjects who were given THC and Kif versus a placebo, “improvements in night vision measures were noted after THC or cannabis.”
“Cannabis improves night vision because active compounds in herb interact directly with special cell receptors in the eye.”
What does all this mean? For starters, it means that marijuana may offer more medical benefits than we previously realized.
Another study conducted at McGill University in Canada, didn’t look to fisherman, but to tadpoles to investigate the impact of cannabis on night vision. They applied a synthetic cannabinoid to the tadpoles eye tissue and watched how their retinal cells then responded to light.
Cannabinoids Help Improve Night Vision
The results suggest “that cannabis improves night vision because active compounds in herb interact directly with special cell receptors in the eye.” You can thank the cannabinoids in marijuana for this positive effect. The way cannabinoids work in terms of all physical and psychoactive effects is that the chemicals bind to CB1 receptors in the body. In terms of vision, it seems that the cannabinoids bind directly to receptors in the retina, which stimulate cells that perceive light. In other words, marijuana can give your eyes a jumpstart so they are more responsive to light triggers.
While these findings are certainly useful for anyone looking to improve night vision, the implications for patients with degenerative eye diseases are even more meaningful. Diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma can lead to impaired vision or eventually to blindness due to damage to retinal cells. Maybe cannabis for glaucoma is the secret weapon we’ve all been waiting for.
More research certainly needs to be done to see if cannabis improves night vision, and it’s unclear if these effects will translate in the same way to humans. (To date the most promising research was on tadpoles.) But there is potential for treatments using cannabis based on this research. In the future scientists may be able to develop medication based on the fact that cannabinoids are known to have a neuroprotective effect on retinal cells, which means they may be able to not only slow the progression of degenerative eye diseases, but also may be able to improve night vision or vision overall.
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