“You have to smoke it continuously, and you just can’t live that way,” said Higginbotham, who wrote an accompanying editorial. At the same time, new eye drops have come onto the market that are much more effective than marijuana at reducing eye pressure and have longer-lasting effects, said Mitch Earleywine, an advisory board member for NORML, which advocates for reform of marijuana laws. “Legendary case studies from 30 years ago consistently support medical cannabis as a potential treatment for glaucoma, but subsequent research has identified potentially better treatments,” said Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany. Despite this, glaucoma patients continue to ask eye doctors for a marijuana prescription to treat their condition, Belyea said. To find out why, he and his colleagues surveyed 204 patients being treated at a glaucoma clinic in Washington, D.C., which legalized medical marijuana in 2010. The researchers found that patients ask for a marijuana prescription based on the fact that states are legalizing pot for medical uses, which gives them the idea that it must be an effective treatment. “As states have passed this, patients were feeling that legalization gave the treatment credibility,” Belyea said. Patients also are likely to ask for marijuana based on false beliefs regarding its effectiveness, the researchers found. Their glaucoma care also mattered greatly — people were more likely to ask for marijuana if they were not satisfied with the quality of their care or if they felt their medications were too expensive. Interestingly, the severity of a person’s glaucoma did not influence whether they wanted to try marijuana. “It didn’t seem to be a motivator for the intention to use it,” Belyea said.
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