Can weed give you superpowers? New study shows link between cannabis and night vision!
Over the years, there has been a lot of discussion about the health and medical benefits of taking cannabis in its various forms. From cancer to glaucoma and anxiety to ADHD, marijuana has been proven (or at least rumored) to treat a wide variety of ailments and illnesses. Now there’s another headline adding to the herb hype – it turns out that marijuana can actually give you superpowers.
Ok, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. But a recent study has shown that cannabis may be able to improve your night vision. There’s been anecdotal evidence of this benefit for years. Over two decades ago, pharmacologist M. E. West noted that fishermen in the West Indies had seemingly superhuman night vision after they smoked marijuana or consumed rum containing cannabis extract. West was amazed that the fisherman were able to safely navigate in extremely dangerous conditions without using a light or a compass.
West delved into the reasons behind this phenomenon. Interested in the medical implications, he worked with another doctor to create a glaucoma treatment called Canasol. The drug is made from a synthetic substance that lowers intraocular pressure and improves night vision in a similar fashion to cannabis.
Over the years, researchers have continued to explore the link between cannabis and improved night vision in an attempt to figure out how it works. Is it because (as most tokers know) marijuana often causes the pupils to dilate? Recently, a group of scientist conducted a study that went beyond speculation to provide hard evidence. Published in eLife, the study was carried out on an unexpected collection of creatures-tadpoles.
Why tadpoles? Researchers suspected that the enhanced night vision caused by cannabis is a result of it binding with CB1 receptors in the human eye. They needed to test this theory out on organisms that also have a large amount of these receptors in their eyes, and thus the tadpoles. Scientists went about placing cannabinoids in the eye tissue of the tadpoles. They found that cannabinoids work via the CB1 receptors to inhibit a protein called NKCC1, thus making the retinal ganglion cells more sensitive.
In order to thoroughly test the effects of cannabis on the tadpoles’ vision, though, researchers needed to see their theory in action. How exactly do you test the night vision of a tadpole, though, given that you can’t have them read an eye chart and tell you what letters and numbers they can see in the dark?
The researchers came up with a novel solution: present the tadpoles with something that looks like a predator and see if they try to avoid it. They placed all the tadpoles in petri dishes marked with dark dots and tested them out in low lighting conditions. The tadpoles that had been given the cannabinoids were better able to avoid the dot-predators, while the ones that had not been treated had trouble when the lights went out.
The findings of this study once again confirm the cannabis/improved night vision connection. More so, they provide real evidence of the mechanism through which this occurs. Scientists hope to be able to use these findings to work on drugs that can treat people with chronic eye diseases that cause vision loss. As research continues, they will need to be able to reproduce similar results in animals that are more similar to humans than tiny tadpoles.
In the meantime, if you smoke it up and feel that you can see better, know that it’s not all in your head – science has your back!