My name is Ethan Carruthers and I am a medical cannabis pharmacist and I wanted to bring attention to this statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) regarding the use of medical cannabis for sleep apnea. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) have made a statement that they cannot recommend medical cannabis for sleep apnea. Their reasons are that there isn’t enough research, medical cannabis can vary dramatically in its chemical composition, and that medical cannabis is not regulated. These are all valid concerns but I would pose that the reason there is a dearth of research on medical cannabis is because of its prohibition, which is arguably illegal unto itself. There is no way that we can do more research on medical cannabis and conditions it may treat if we are not allowed to use or study it. I can understand why the academy made its statement but I think that supporting states who want to research it as a part of their medical cannabis program would have been a wiser move. For example, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine could aid medical cannabis states in conducting actual research into medical cannabis and its use in sleep apnea, thus advancing the dialogue rather than just making a blanket statement that it shouldn’t be used. I think the academy’s statement is more representative of their ignorance and disinterest in medical cannabis as a serious issue. So, I would propose that doctors participate in advancing research, rather than stifling it.
In addition, they don’t speak about the known dangers of hypnotics such as Ambien which are widely used in sleep disorders, including sleep apnea. These hypnotics, according to research published in the British Journal of Medicine (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4890308/), dramatically increase all-cause mortality and cancer risk. Medical Cannabis, on the other hand, does not increase mortality nor cancer risk. So, I find it deeply disingenuous that the academy supports the use of medications that can increase your mortality by 350% but won’t support the use or study of medical cannabis for sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
I’d be curious to hear the responses from other forum members. What do you think of medical organizations making statements like this?
Ethan Carruthers, PharmD