Healthy Living

Medical Cannabis Is a No-No for Sleep Apnea, Experts Say

Medical Cannabis Is a No-No for Sleep Apnea, Experts Say

Recently, the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota stated that medical cannabis can be used to treat sleep apnea. But now experts in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have a different opinion on the effectiveness of medical marijuana.

The Academy stated that, "medical cannabis and synthetic marijuana extracts should not be used to treat obstructive sleep apnea" in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. They believe that there is a lack of evidence that the treatment is effective or safe. And, the Academy also expressed concerns about how the medical marijuana would be administered to patients.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine's opinion came just after the Minnesota Department of Health placed obstructive sleep apnea on a list of conditions that were eligible for the state’s medical cannabis program.

The synthetic cannabis extract that would be used to treat sleep apnea is called dronabinol. Early studies and trials used on animals suggested that dronabinol could ease the symptoms of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea. Since then, there have been studies that investigated whether or not this extract would have the same effect in humans. However, trials have only proved that dronabinol can be effective in reducing nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The Food and Drug Administration also has not approved dronabinol as a treatment for sleep apnea.

According to Dr. Kannan Ramar, professor of medicine in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, “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.”

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder in the United States, and it affects more than 30 million adults. It is a potentially dangerous disorder if left untreated, and it causes you to repeatedly stop breathing while you sleep.

Patients are at risk for sleep apnea if they are overweight, have a family history of sleep apnea, or have a small airway. Children are also at risk for sleep apnea if they have enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

Read on to learn why patients should not use medical marijuana for sleep apnea, and other alternative treatments you can use.