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From Iowa City, Iowa, USA:

What effect do drugs have on insulin dependent diabetics? How much more dangerous are they for diabetics? I have heard that marijuana lowers the blood sugar. Is that true?


Information about medications in general is important to know. As a common rule, the insulin dependent diabetic patient can use almost any medication that non diabetics use. Exceptions would be medications that use highly sweetened or concentrated syrups for a base (e.g., for relief of colds). Diabetes, on the other hand, is particularly affected by a group of medications called steroids (or corticosteroids) such as cortisone or prednisone that, although being very useful for treatment of many diseases and for rapid recovery from nuisance problems, raises quite highly blood sugar levels. Proper insulin adjustment (quite often much larger than normally) is needed based on frequent blood sugar testing and close contact among the patient, doctor and Diabetes team. Birth control pills may slightly elevate blood sugar levels although this is very rare with modern low dosage pills. Epinephrine (adrenalin) and thyroid hormones raise the blood sugar level. Diuretics (used to remove excess fluid from the body) can impair glucose tolerance. Other problems may arise from medications that tend to decrease blood sugar levels (e.g., alcohol, aspirin). In conclusion, for any medication that's recommended for a person with diabetes, you can ask the doctor or the pharmacist about the most likely chance of causing a change in blood sugar control. Still, the best bet is to check blood sugar tests and see what happens to them while on the additional treatment: if the blood sugar changes, contact the diabetes team.

For the insulin dependent diabetic patient, additional problem arise with the use of marijuana. It does not decrease blood sugar; instead marijuana may mask hypoglycemic reactions and it also has been reported to increase insulin requirements.


Original posting 4 Apr 1998
Posted to Other Medications


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