Don’t hop aboard the medical marijuana train for sleep apnea

Lately we have been seeing a lot of news articles about medical marijuana. We have new states popping up every month in support of the legalization of marijuana. While we continue to learn more about the benefits and hear various opinions, let’s look at sleep apnea. Many people believe medical marijuana is a good option for patients with sleep apnea. It might be possible, but I don’t think we’re ready to jump on that train just yet.

Medical marijuana and sleep apnea

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), medical marijuana should not be used to treat sleep apnea. The AASM warned that the drug and its synthetic extracts have not been shown to be safe, effective or well-tolerated by patients with sleep apnea.                     

The important thing to note here is that, until further research and evidence is found on the use of medical marijuana for treatment of sleep apnea, we should be avoiding this subject. Be sure to discuss proven treatment options with your patients. However, if your patient does bring this idea up for treatment of sleep apnea, provide proper education and inform them that there has been no proof just yet.

This does not mean it will never be approved, but, for now, we need to do our due diligence to protect our patients and have their best interest in mind.

States discuss qualifying conditions

Many states have discussed adding obstructive sleep apnea as a new qualifying condition for their medical marijuana program, such as the Minnesota Department of Health. However, the AASM’s statement in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, urged states to exclude sleep apnea from the list of chronic health issues that might be included in medical marijuana programs.

Current treatments for sleep apnea still include CPAP therapy and oral appliance therapy, but should not include medical marijuana (at least not yet). While medical marijuana runs the risk of daytime sleepiness and other side effects, further studies are needed to determine the effectiveness.

Until there is significant scientific evidence of the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana, we should avoid this as a potential treatment for sleep apnea.