Medical Marijuana for Insomnia
Medical marijuana has long been used to treat the pain associated with several conditions, such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. While it isn’t exactly a miracle drug that can cure all ailments, cannabis can be used to ease or mask the symptoms of any number of illnesses allowing patients the ability to have a better quality of life.
Although many states have made the decision to legalize medical marijuana, the federal government has yet to do so. In fact, on a federal level, cannabis is listed as a Schedule I drug meaning that it doesn’t have any viable medical use and has a high potential for abuse. Some might find this confusing considering Epidiolex, a drug derived directly from cannabis, was recently approved as an anti-seizure medication. Despite the federal government’s inability to legalize medical marijuana, the states that have done so has not only seen considerable improvements in patient care, but they have also experienced a decrease in opioid abuse and addiction as well as deaths associated with overdose.
Other than pain relief can cannabis be used effectively to treat other conditions such as sleep disorders? We all have heard that after someone smokes a joint, they get the munchies and want to sleep. Well, at least that’s the way it’s described in pop culture. But is the movie depiction accurate?
What are sleep disorders?
More than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and an additional 20 million report occasional sleeping problems according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). Abnormal sleep patterns that interfere with physical, mental, and emotional functioning that may or may not be caused by stress, anxiety, or other health condition are the basis of sleep disorders. In truth, the name sleep disorder is an umbrella term that includes insomnia, sleep apnea, sleepwalking, narcolepsy as well as several other conditions.
A sleep disorder can adversely affect a person’s health and safety by decreasing their physical performance, and alertness while impairing memory and cognitive abilities. While the physical effects of a sleep disorder are harmful enough, studies have shown that they also degrade relationships as well as the emotional health of the patient.
Treatment for sleep disorders
The traditional method for treating sleep disorders depends primarily on the type. Some disorders are as simple to manage as incorporating regular sleep habits into the daily routine. Other disorders require light therapy or melatonin treatments that encourage quality sleep and assist in maintaining a proper sleep-wake cycle. Unfortunately, not all sleep disorders are easily treated. Some individuals find that despite these adjustments and therapies, they still don’t have quality sleep on a regular basis.
Since the passage of the first Compassionate Care Act in 1996, individuals suffering from some of the worst diseases and conditions reported improvement in sleep patterns and feeling more rested each day. In similar studies, researchers concluded that cannabis did improve the quality and duration of sleep in those patients as well as those who were suffering from various sleep disorders without other medical conditions. They found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a primary cannabinoid found in cannabis, reduced the amount of time it took to for individuals with insomnia to fall asleep.
An additional study concluded that patients who regularly received oral THC fell asleep faster and without difficulty when compared to non-consumers. From these and other studies, researchers believe that cannabis can be used as an effective treatment method. Interestingly, studies centered around military personnel found that for those who suffer from nightmares as a result of PTSD, cannabinoids were an effective treatment method.
With all the evidence that cannabis can help with sleep disorders and nightmares associated with PTSD, all states that currently allow the use of medical marijuana should include these conditions as a part of their qualifying conditions. Unfortunately, in New York, that is not the case. At present, New York only allows those who have been diagnosed with PTSD to use marijuana as a treatment method. Individuals who have disruptions in their sleep and who do not have other medical conditions do not qualify under the current guidelines. If you have chronic or persistent insomnia or are suffering from poor sleep, regardless of what the guidelines say, consult a physician. Your health is important, and poor sleep can affect your life and overall well-being.
Conditions currently covered under NY’s Medical Marijuana program
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Spinal cord injury with spasticity
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic pain
- Pain that degrades health and functional capability
- Alternative to opioid use
- Substance use disorder
The severe debilitating or life-threatening condition must also be accompanied by one or more of the following associated or complicating conditions:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe or chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms
- Opioid use disorder
While this list may not seem complete, especially to those suffering from an illness, not on this list, don’t worry, legislators are working alongside the medical community to ensure that patients who could benefit from cannabis treatment can do so. We encourage non-qualified patients to check back with the program periodically as updates are made available when changes are made.
Additionally, under the program, New Yorkers who are qualified to use medical marijuana and possess an ID card issued by the program are only allowed to use certain forms of consumption. Currently, despite the public’s desire, smoking cannabis as a joint or in a bong as well as any edibles are prohibited. Patients may use marijuana as a lozenge, tablet, capsule, topical, transdermal patch, or vaporized.
Although many illnesses are covered under New York’s Compassionate Care Act, sleep disorders are not explicitly listed. However, if you are suffering from another illness such as PTSD, cancer, or any of the other listed conditions and find yourself developing sleep issues, be sure to talk to your practitioner, medical marijuana may be the right treatment for you. After you fill out an application online with MDBerry, you can find information on where to buy medical marijuana in New York here.
To find out more about the requirements for medical marijuana in New York visit the state’s program at https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/patients/.