MMJ Medical Marijuana vs Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a surprisingly common sleep disorder that is characterized by abnormal declines or pauses in breathing during sleep. Each pause is called an ‘apnea’ or ‘hypopnea’ and can last from a few seconds to minutes in length – occurring 5 to 30 times or more per hour. Sleep apnea falls under the broader category of sleep-disordered breathing and is classified as mild, moderate or severe depending on the number of apnea/hypopnea episodes that occur per hour of sleep.

A number of studies have investigated the effects of cannabis extracts on sleep apnea, revealing positive findings.

In 2002, researchers at the University of Illinois published the results of a study documenting the effects of cannabinoids (THC and oleamide) in animal models of sleep apnea. The results showed that both THC and oleamide were able to stabilize respiration in the animal models during all stages of sleep, decreasing apnea indexes during NREM and REM sleep stages by 42% and 58% respectively. These decreases were observed to be dose-dependent – meaning that higher doses of cannabinoids resulted in higher reductions in apnea episodes.

Following the positive results of this pre-clinical trial, lead author Dr. David Carley published the first human trial to investigate the effects of THC (dronabinol) on sleep apnea in 2013. The study involved administering varying doses of dronabinol (2.5, 5 and 10mg) to 17 test subjects prior to bedtime over a 3 week period. The results showed an overall reduction in apnea indexes of 32%, despite significant variance between patients.

Although a 32% reduction is marginal when compared to the effectiveness of current treatment options (such as CPAP and oral devices), the authors suggest that cannabinoid medications could still be of benefit to patients who suffer from mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea. Furthermore, the reduction was observed to be dose-dependent in both pre-clinical and human trials – meaning that higher rates of reduction may likely be achieved with higher doses of cannabinoids.

Read More: Truth on Pot

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