Can Cannabis Help Treat Insomnia?
Written by Eli Ben-YehudaOn September 4, 2019
Cannabis Can Help?
Four-time Stanley Cup Champion Darren McCarty often credits medical cannabis with saving his life. “When I first went pro at age 21, I was drinking myself to sleep every night,” McCarty said. “When I couldn’t drink, I experienced severe anxiety. That is when I first remember battling insomnia.”
While the former Detroit Red Wings superstar says he used cannabis off-and-on during his NHL playing days, he’s the first to admit that it wasn’t strictly for medicinal use. “In my playing days, I didn’t know any better,” he said. “But after my NHL career ended, I began educating myself about the benefits of cannabis, one of which was for treating insomnia. It was around that time when I began to respect cannabis as a medicine.”
Similar to McCarty, former UFC Heavyweight Champion and three-time King of Pancrase World Champion, Bas Rutten, also battled with insomnia. But for much of his professional fighting career, Rutten was heavily dependent on sleep aids such as Seroquel to treat the problem. “I knew the sleeping pills were ruining my liver,” he says
But it wasn’t until his primary care physician introduced him to high-CBD (cannabidiol). Indica-dominant cannabis strains were introduced in 2013 a replacement for the pills. “After being introduced to medical cannabis, one hit at night with a vaporizer allows me to fall asleep with ease,” he says.
New Study Confirms
Now a new study from the University of New Mexico (UNM) backs up these two athletes’ and countless others’ claims. The study entitled Effectiveness of Raw, Natural Medical Cannabis Flower for Treating Insomnia Under Naturalistic Conditions. It recently published in the Medicines journal. It concludes that the consumption of medical cannabis flower is associated with significant improvements in perceived insomnia.
Jacob M. Vigil, MD, the lead cannabis researcher at the University of New Mexico, utilized a mobile software application called Releaf App. He analyzed 409 people who completed 1,056 medical cannabis administration sessions tracked their personal cannabis administration methods, products, dosing regimen. Included were the perceived side effects (co-author Kevin Provost is an investor in Releaf App).
Dr. Vigil says that patients using cannabis flower, and particularly plant strains with higher CBD contents, reported significant improvements in insomnia symptoms. The reported relatively minimal negative side effects.
According to the UNM study and based on data collected by Releaf App, Sativa strains were more commonly associated with more reports of negative side effects. Those using Indica strains reported less. Vaporizing was also associated with reduced reports of negative side effects compared to smoking joints.
The study concludes that in comparison to conventional prescription pharmaceutical sleep aids, CBD is generally believed to be much safer and often is described as non-psychoactive. “For the individual, they must weigh the costs and benefits of using different types of sleep medications. Whether whole natural Cannabis flower or good old fashion ‘bud’ to the layman. Either may offer some of the highest therapeutic-to-negative-side-effect profiles of any available options currently available to sleep-sufferers,” Dr. Virgil says.
Despite the fact that insomnia is still not a qualifying condition under any state-authorized medical cannabis programs, McCarty and Rutten were excited to learn about the insomnia research study. The study further confirms and supports their personal experiences. “It’s important to have science-based research backing up what many individuals believe to be true about the healing effects of cannabis,” says McCarty.
Rutten agrees. “It seems that 85 percent of the people I talk to about medical cannabis are either using it for pain management or as a sleep aid.”
Medical Abstract NCBI
Background: We use a mobile software application (app) to measure for the first time, what the fundamental characteristics of are. Looking at raw, natural medical Cannabis flower is associated with changes in perceived insomnia under naturalistic conditions.
Four hundred and nine people with a specified condition of insomnia completed 1056 medical cannabis administration sessions. They used the Releaf AppTM educational software during which they recorded real-time ratings of self-perceived insomnia severity levels. This was done both prior to and following consumption. It included experienced side effects, and product characteristics, including combustion method, cannabis subtypes, and/or major cannabinoid contents of cannabis consumed.
Within-user effects of different flower characteristics were modeled using a fixed effects panel regression approach with standard errors clustered at the user level. Results: Releaf AppTM users showed an average symptom severity reduction of -4.5 points on a 0⁻10 point visual analogue scale>
Use of pipes and vaporizers was associated with greater symptom relief. Also more positive and context-specific side effects as compared to the use of joints, while vaporization was also associated with lower negative effects.
Cannabidiol (CBD) was associated with greater statistically significant symptom relief than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but the cannabinoid levels generally were not associated with differential side effects.
Flower from C. sativa plants was associated with more negative side effects than a flower from C. indica or hybrid plant subtypes. Conclusions: Consumption of medical Cannabis flower is associated with significant improvements in perceived insomnia with differential effectiveness and side effect profiles, depending on the product characteristics.
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