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Medical marijuana should not be prescribed for sleep apnea, say experts

Medical marijuana should not be prescribed for sleep apnea, say experts

Synthetic marijuana and cannabis should not be used for treating sleep apnea (SA), according to a position statement by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). SA is a sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing gets interrupted during sleep and the brain and the other body parts do not get sufficient oxygen.

In 2017, a directive by the Minnesota Department of Health had announced that sleep apnea be included as a new eligible condition for the state’s medical cannabis plan. But according to the position statement published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in April, AASM concluded that SA must be omitted from the chronic medical conditions list for the medical cannabis program owing to inadequate proof of treatment usefulness, untrustworthy delivery procedures, acceptability and safety.

Treatment with medical cannabis can have adverse effects

Approximately 30 million people in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea which includes frequent collapse of the upper airway while sleeping. Lead author Dr. Kannan Ramar, a professor of Medicine in the division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Center for Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, said, “Until we have further evidence on the efficacy of medical cannabis for the treatment of sleep apnea, and until its safety profile is established, patients should discuss proven treatment options with a licensed medical provider at an accredited sleep facility.” Furthermore, the treatment with medical cannabis revealed adverse effects like daytime sleepiness, which can lead to unintentional consequences like motor accidents.

Previous studies had demonstrated that dronabinol, an extract of synthetic cannabis, enhanced respiratory stability. Certain current human studies have found the potential use of dronabinol as an alternative treatment option in case of sleep apnea, but it has been disapproved by Food and Drug Administration as its persistent safety and tolerability is unknown. Moreover, there are no clinical studies on the efficacy and safety of other delivery methods such as liquid formulation.

Managing sleep apnea

Majority of people do not consider obstructive sleep apnea to be serious, but one should consult a medical health professional if one experiences loud snoring with periods of silence. The symptoms are sudden awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, episodes of breathing cessations while sleeping, and waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth. Other signs are morning headaches, insomnia, attention problems, irritability and excessive daytime sleeping. If left untreated, it can lead to various health issues like stroke, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, heart failure, headaches, daytime fatigue and worsening of ADHD. Also, it can result in poor performance at work or school, daily activities and accidents.

The treatment method aims at normalizing breathing during sleep. AASM President Dr. Ilene Rosen said that safe and effective treatment therapies for OSA are available with approved medical providers at recognized sleep facilities. He further added that there were more than 2,500 AASM-accredited sleep facilities in the U.S. The treatment options comprise CPAP therapy in which the throat is kept open during sleep along with the application of minor levels of air pressure via mask. Also, changes in lifestyle like weight loss, cessation of alcohol and smoking helps normalize breathing.

If you or your loved one is grappling with a similar situation, seek immediate help. The Texas Substance Abuse Helpline assists in getting access to the best substance abuse treatment centers in Texas that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-971-2658 or chat online to know more about the substance abuse treatment programs in Texas.