Monday, August 30, 2010

Study: Medical Pot Helps Chronic Pain Patients Sleep

Managing sleep can be difficult when you’re in constant pain. A small amount of medical marijuana appears to help patients with chronic neurological pain sleep through the night.

Patients with damaged nerves may experience seemingly unexplainable pain caused by a faulty signal in the body’s central nervous system. The initial pain may begin with a painful accident or medical condition. Untreated pain worsens by causing pathological changes to the brain and spinal cord.

One well-known example is the “phantom limb”, when an amputee feels pain located in a limb that no longer exists. There are several treatments for the physical anguish and sleeplessness from the condition, but there is no cure. The Sleep Education Blog reports cognitive-behavioral therapy can help patients manage pain and get to sleep at a regular bedtime.

The study on medical marijuana and chronic neurological pain appears in the August issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

A group of 23 pain patients smoked three types of medical-grade marijuana with different levels of tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), the chemical compound that can cause a euphoric high. The potencies included 2.5%, 6% and 9.4% THC, as well as a placebo.

Participants were instructed to smoke the drug from a small pipe three times a day for five days. They did not know which type of pot they were smoking. They had a nine-day break before switching potencies.

Patients said they fell asleep faster and had better quality of sleep after they smoked more potent marijuana. Some experienced minor side effects including headaches, coughing, dizziness and dry eyes.

The study is among the first clinical trials investigating the uses and benefits of smoking medical marijuana. Most prior research uses THC extract to test marijuana’s medical effectiveness.

Marijuana is generally not recommended as a sleep aid. The drug can worsen your quality of sleep by reducing the amount of time spent in REM sleep. Regular users may become dependent on marijuana to sleep. Withdrawal from the drug can cause insomnia and strange dreams.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has not released a position statement on the use of marijuana as a sleep aid.

Image by Troy Holden

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