By Andrew Bourque

The legalization of recreational marijuana has dominated the news, recently, but medical marijuana research continues to advance apace. Earlier this year, the FDA approved the first prescription drug derived from cannabis to treat epilepsy. This approval marks a watershed moment for legitimizing the active ingredients of medical marijuana as a viable treatment for diseases, even though marijuana advocates have been promoting myriad treatment possibilities for decades.

One of the most promising—and pressing—areas of research has to do with the effects of medical marijuana on people with diabetes. Millions of people suffering from the disease are looking for relief from both the symptoms and the high costs healthcare associated with treating the disease.

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent, and hard to treat, diseases today. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes. Worldwide, it is estimated that 8.5% of adults have diabetes, up from 4.7% in 1980. Besides contributing to early deaths, diabetes is also a “major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation.”

The disease not only has a profound effect on the people diagnosed with it. Increasingly, the costs of treating the disease are placing a strain on individuals and the U.S. healthcare system. According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2017 the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes was $327 billion--$90 billion of which was attributed to reduced productivity. A staggering 1 in 4 health care dollars in the U.S. were spent on people diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes is deadly, debilitating, and costly. There is a dire need for solutions to help prevent the disease and treat the myriad symptoms without the inflated costs associated with the U.S. healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

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