Could Medical Cannabis Treat Sleep Apnea?
In a brief, the Minnesota Department of Health cited recent research, including a clinical trial on dronabinol, synthetic THC that has been used for years to prevent nausea in chemotherapy patients. The medication was a new approach to the treatment of sleep apnea because it targeted the brain instead of the physical problem of collapsing airways. This reflects the new idea that sleep apnea is not just a physical problem but may be caused by several factors, including poor regulation of the upper airway muscles by the brain. The study from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Northwestern Medicine was published in the journal SLEEP in 2017.
The drug dronabinol contains just one biologically active molecule. Further research is needed to fully understand how other molecules found in cannabis plants might impact patients with sleep apnea, says Carley.
“I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be or couldn’t be therapeutic; I’m saying that we don’t have any data on that yet,” he says. “There is a lot more work that needs to be done.”