Cartoon image of fork in the road of prescription pills and cannabis

Treating a variety of symptoms all the way from chronic pain to cancer, cannabis is a safe and effective relief for millions. As the number of uses for medical marijuana increases, as does a growing group of eyes and cannabis consumers who are discovering the benefits of cannabis for sleep. This article is the first in a four-part series that explores the topic of using marijuana as a replacement for sleep aids.

Anxiety. Depression. Pain. Medical marijuana has been proven to be an effective treatment for many medical problems people struggle with on a daily basis. You are probably familiar with these disorders being treated with cannabis, but what about sleep?

[Read Also: How and Why People Use Cannabis for Sleep]

Can cannabis be used to replace dangerous prescription sleep aids? Studies say yes!

Analysis of User-Entered Data Shows Cannabis Treats Insomnia Safely

Recently a study titled, “Patient-Reported Symptom Relief Following Medical Cannabis Consumption” published by the journal, Frontiers in Pharmacology, found that in addition to the relief of symptoms for other disorders, cannabis consumption was effective at treating insomnia. Likewise, another recent study titled, “Effectiveness of Raw, Natural Medical Cannabis Flower for Treating Insomnia under Naturalistic Conditions” published by the journal, Medicines, looked specifically at the use of Cannabis flower for treating insomnia with similar results.

Brenden Hall, Keenan Keeling, and Franco Brockelman have collaborated in the creation of the Releaf App that is currently the largest repository of information entered by users on the effects of cannabis use in the United States. Both of the studies utilized user-entered data to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of medicinal marijuana.

One of the co-authors of the study released from the Frontiers of Pharmacology journal, Jacob Vigil, had this to say about medicinal marijuana and the potential to replace dangerous pharmaceuticals:

“If the results found in our studies can be extrapolated to the general population, cannabis could systematically replace multi-billion dollar medication industries around the world. It is likely already beginning to do so.”

Never before has real-world cannabis use data been available for analysis to determine accurately the effectiveness of medicinal marijuana. By avoiding the limitations that are inevitable with retrospective collection of data (i.e. social desirability effects, memory bias), this app allows the collection of real-time data as patients manage and monitor their cannabis consumption decisions in a naturalistic way.

The study published by the Frontiers of Pharmacology evaluated the effectiveness of cannabis in the treatment of 27 different health conditions by asking users to rate the symptom reduction on a scale of 1-10. On average, users reported cannabis caused a nearly four-point reduction in symptoms, including the treatment of insomnia.

Many advocates and experts assert that the consumption of raw, natural cannabis flower or “buds” is the most effective way to reap the full benefits of medical marijuana. As such, the second study analyzed the effects of cannabis flower on insomnia. Variables of this study included:

  • Characteristics of the cannabis flower
  • Consumption methods
  • Amount consumed

The University of New Mexico Medical Cannabis Research Fund, which enables cannabis-based biomedical research, was the source of funding for both of the studies.

Understanding the Dangers of Sleep Medications

Headaches. Seizures. Coma. Death. One glance at a typical over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription sleep pill list of side effects is enough to make you understand that, like most medications, sleep aids carry a high risk of potentially serious and honestly frightening results.

Available on the shelves and from the doctors across the nation, both OTC and prescription-strength sleeping pills are readily available for consumers, making the temptation greater for some.

Common OTC sleep aids include:

  • Antihistamines (i.e. Benadryl or Nyquil)
  • Melatonin, which is a natural hormonal supplement
  • Valerian, plant-based supplement

Common prescription sleep aids include:

  • Antidepressants such as trazodone (Desyrel)
  • Benzodiazepines such as Esamepam (Restoril) and triazolam (Halcion)
  • Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • Doxepin (Silenor)
  • Zaleplon (Sonata)
  • Ramelteon (Rozerem)
  • Suvorexant (Belsomra)
  • Zolpidem (Ambien or Edluar, etc.)

Experts estimate that about a third to nearly a half of all Americans experience insomnia, or the inability to sleep. If you’re one of them, you understand why people choose to use a “sleeping pill” to relieve insomnia. “Sedative hypnotics” is the actual classification of most sleeping pills or drugs that maintain or induce sleep. Included under this broad term of sedatives are:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Barbiturates
  • Hypnotics

Negative side effects of any sleeping pill include coma, seizures, and even death. Therefore, the medical marijuana community has embraced the use of cannabis for sleep for its safety among other reasons. The communities of older people and patients with serious medical conditions are quickly adopting the use of medical marijuana as a replacement for sleep meds. As stated by Vigil:

“Observational studies are more appropriate than experimental research designs for measuring how patients choose to consume cannabis and the effects of those choices.”

Treating Insomnia with Cannabis is Not New Science

Naturally, as the number of people dealing with sleeping disorders climbs, as does the interest in the alternative and often controversial treatment – medical marijuana. Cannabis advocates have been promoting the consumption of cannabinoids as a treatment for insomnia and other medical ailments for decades. Patients and advocates confirm the effectiveness of cannabis for insomnia and report zero to no side effects.

According to the medical marijuana physician, Dr. Matt Roman:

“Marijuana is an effective sleep aid because it restores a person’s natural sleep cycle, which so often falls out of sync with our schedules in today’s modern lifestyle.”

If you struggle with falling asleep after a stressful day or deal with the symptoms of a chronic sleeping disorder, cannabis might be the very cure you’ve been looking for. Furthermore, medical marijuana helps promote a more tranquil state by easing the symptoms of chronic pain, relieving or lessening anxiety and soothing a stressed-out body and mind.

[Read Also: The Golden Age of Cannabis]

Learn more and cannabis and sleep by watching for our follow-up to this post that covers all the nerdy science aspects of using medical marijuana for sleep and we explore different ways to ingest it to provide the most benefits for a restful night.