Study Finds Marijuana Helps Those with Chronic Pain Sleep

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Marijuana use is associated with improved sleep in those with chronic pain, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. For the study researchers examined the association between sleep problems and marijuana use in those 50 and older who are chronic pain patients. 128 patients took part in the study: 66 of these had used medical marijuana for at least a full year, with 62 being non-users.

Marijuana use was associated with a “positive effect on maintaining sleep throughout the night”, states researchers.

“This study is among the first to test the link between whole plant MC (medical cannabis) use and sleep quality”, states the study. “Our findings showed that MC patients were less likely to report problems with staying asleep compared with non-MC patients, independently of potential confounders”. They continue: “This suggests that MC may have a sleep-promoting characteristic in terms of minimizing awakenings during the night”.

These findings “may have large public health impacts considering the aging of the population, the relatively high prevalence of sleep problems in this population along with increasing use of MC.”

The study is titled Medical cannabis and insomnia in older patients with chronic pain: A cross-sectional study.

The study’s full abstract below:

Objectives Medical cannabis (MC) is increasingly being used for treatment of chronic pain symptoms. Among patients there is also a growing preference for the use of MC to manage sleep problems. The aim of the current study was to examine the associations between use of whole plant cannabis and sleep problems among chronic pain patients.

Methods A total of 128 individuals with chronic pain over the age of 50 years were recruited from the Rambam Institute for Pain Medicine in Haifa, Israel. Of them, 66 were MC users and 62 were non-users. Regression models tested the differences in sleep problems between the two groups. Furthermore, Pearson correlations between MC use measures (dose, length and frequency of use, number of strains used, tetrahydrocannabinol/cannabidiol levels) and sleep problems were assessed among MC users.

Results After adjustment for age, sex, pain level and use of sleep and anti-depressant medications, MC use was associated with less problems with waking up at night compared with non-MC use. No group differences were found for problems with falling asleep or waking up early without managing to fall back asleep. Frequent MC use was associated with more problems waking up at night and falling asleep.

Conclusions MC use may have an overall positive effect on maintaining sleep throughout the night in chronic pain patients. At the same time, tolerance towards potential sleep-inducing properties of MC may occur with frequent use. More research based on randomised control trials and other longitudinal designs is warranted.

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