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Cannabinoid drug found effective for treating sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is estimated to affect 1 in 5 American adults, and there are currently no drugs available to treat it. But a large-scale clinical trial now offers hope, proving that a drug that uses a synthetic version of the main psychoactive substance in cannabis is effective for treating the disorder.

Share on Pinterest A synthetic version of purified THC — the active substance found in marijuana — could be effective for treating sleep apnea.

The drug is called dronabinol, and it is based on a synthetic version of Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the main psychoactive compound responsible for the “high” in cannabis use.

The randomized clinical trial is the longest and largest of its kind, and the results are from its second phase. Dronabinol is already in use for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

David W. Carley, a professor of biobehavioral health sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), jointly led the study with Dr. Phyllis Zee, professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and director of the Northwestern Medicine Sleep Disorders Center, both in Chicago, IL.

At least a mild form of sleep apnea is thought to affect 1 in 5 Americans, and treatment options are limited. Obstructive sleep apnea — the most prevalent form of the condition — is usually treated mechanically with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. However, treatment adherence to this mechanical option is very poor.

Recurrent, untreated sleep apnea may lead to cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease and stroke. “There is a tremendous need for effective, new treatments [for] obstructive sleep apnea,” says Prof. Carley, who is also the first author of the paper.

The drug tested in this trial — results of which are published in journal Sleep — works by targeting the brain. Dr. Zee explains, “The CPAP device targets the physical problem but not the cause.”

“The drug targets the brain and nerves that regulate the upper airway muscles. It alters the neurotransmitters from the brain that communicate with the muscles.”

“When people take a pill to treat apnea, they are treated for the entire night,” adds Prof. Carley.

The largest and longest trial of a drug for obstructive sleep apnea finds the cannabinoid drug dronabinol safe and effective for treating the condition.

Sleep Apnea & CBD

Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

It’s not uncommon to experience tireless or unsatisfactory sleep every once in a while. But for patients with sleep apnea, the impact of this sleeping disorder can have a more severe effect on their everyday lives.

Sleep apnea impacts nearly 18 million patients in the U.S. alone, making it one of the top sleep-related disorders in the nation. Since the effects of this condition can significantly impair one’s ability to perform routine daily tasks with ease, it’s vital to discover an effective treatment plan that works.

This article will examine why CBD may be the ideal solution for a patient experiencing sleep apnea while outlining the best forms of this product for treating this disorder. Read on to learn more about sleep apnea and a CBD treatment plan below.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Before we delve into the treatment plans for this condition, you may be asking yourself, “What is sleep apnea, and do I have this condition?”

Sleep apnea is a disorder that primarily impacts a patient’s breathing during the night. While sleeping, an individual’s upper airways become blocked, significantly reducing their airflow. For some patients, airflow stops completely. What does this mean? Essentially, sleep apnea causes an individual to experience a disrupted breathing cycle during sleep.

Some individuals aren’t even aware they have sleep apnea until they experience the impact of their unhealthy sleep quality. Rather than waking up the next morning feeling refreshed and energetic, a sleep apnea patient can feel groggy and lethargic during the day. In some cases, patients struggle to remain awake and may put themselves at risk for falling asleep while driving, working or engaging in other activities vital to their everyday routine.

While asleep, an individual sleeping with a patient with sleep apnea may note the following symptoms:

  • Gasping for air
  • Noisy snoring
  • Moments of altered or impaired breathing

If you have a partner with sleep apnea, you may begin to feel the impact of low-quality sleep due to their nightly interruptions, too.

Sleep apnea isn’t just an inconvenient issue that provokes a patient to be noisy while asleep. Since this condition can significantly impair an individual’s sense of wellbeing, it’s crucial to develop a treatment plan as soon as you take note of this issue.

How Does Sleep Apnea Affect the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in the regulation of a healthy and normal sleep cycle. But before you can fully comprehend the importance of the endocannabinoid system for sleep apnea, you may be asking yourself, “What is the endocannabinoid system, and why does it matter for my condition?”

The endocannabinoid system is a vital part of the body responsible for ensuring a patient reaches a state of homeostasis. This crucial system possesses receptors that engage in intercellular communication to ensure the body can adequately perform its normal daily functioning, including sleep.

Your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up are all acts that the endocannabinoid system regulates. Since sleep plays a vital role in other aspects of your everyday health — such as your immunity, blood pressure and cognitive abilities — other elements of the endocannabinoid system are altered when a patient experiences sleep apnea or an impaired sleep cycle, too.

Why CBD May Be the Solution for Sleep Apnea

You know how sleep apnea impacts your body and the endocannabinoid system, but what can you do to lessen the impact of this sleep disorder?

If you’ve noticed the word “endocannabinoid” sounds similar to cannabis, there’s a reason. While scientists were examining the powerful and positive impact of marijuana on the body, they found it fitting to name this vital system after cannabis.

Since CBD is a non-psychoactive compound of cannabis, it’s ideally suited for those experiencing conditions like sleep apnea. When administered in reasonable doses, CBD can increase a patient’s sense of alertness and awareness, making it easier for them to feel energetic during the day.

When taken at night, the right dosage can also help promote sleep, making it a medication that benefits sleep apnea patients twofold. Since CBD interacts with receptors related to the sleep cycle, a patient using CBD-infused products may have an easier time managing their symptoms.

The Best Forms of CBD for Sleep Apnea

If you’re interested in trying CBD to control your sleep apnea, your next step is to purchase your products — but where do you begin? Which form of CBD is best suited for someone with your condition? Is one method of intake better than the other, or is it merely a matter of preference?

Since those with sleep apnea often want to experience immediate internal relief, you may want to skip lotions and other topicals that work better for targeted treatment. Many patients with sleep apnea prefer to vape or smoke their CBD because the effect is quicker.

Once you decide your intake method, your next course of action is choosing the ideal strain to combat your symptoms. Options such as Strawberry Cough, Super Sour Diesel, Girl Scout Cookies, Green Crack and Blue Dream are all options known for their ability to reduce sleep apnea symptoms.

If this is your first time using CBD to treat sleep apnea, be sure to discuss your treatment options with a certified medical marijuana specialist before crafting your medication plan. Not sure who to turn to for help? Use our online directory to connect with the professionals who can help you get on the right path today.

Learn More About Sleep Apnea

Learn more about Sleep Apnea and what makes medical marijuana an effective treatment for Sleep Apnea’s symptoms.

If you are suffering from Sleep Apnea, learn more about your marijuana-related treatment options. Find out how CBD can be used to treat the symptoms of Sleep Apnea.