Commenting on the findings in an interview, Ryan G. Vandrey, PhD, who was not involved in the study, said the findings are in line with previous research.
“I think the results make sense with respect to the data I’ve collected and from what I’ve seen,” said Dr. Vandrey, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
“We typically only want to use sleep medications for short periods of time,” he continued. “When you think about recommended prescribing practices for any hypnotic medication, it’s usually short term, 2 weeks or less. Longer-term use often leads to tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms when the medication is stopped, which leads to an exacerbation of disordered sleep,” Dr. Vandrey said.
Nevertheless, he urged caution when interpreting the results.
“I think the study warrants caution about long-term daily use of cannabinoids with respect to sleep,” he said. “But we need more detailed evaluations, as the trial wasn’t testing a defined product, specific dose, or dose regimen.
“In addition, this was all done in the context of people with chronic pain and not treating disordered sleep or insomnia, but the study highlights the importance of recognizing that long-term chronic use of cannabis is not likely to fully resolve sleep problems.”
Dr. Sznitman agreed that the research is still in its very early stages.
“We’re still far from saying we have the evidence to support the use of medical cannabis for sleep,” she said. “For in the end it was just a cross-sectional, observational study, so we cannot say anything about cause and effect. But if these results pan out, they could be far-reaching and exciting.”
The study was funded by the University of Haifa and Rambam Hospital in Israel, and by the Evelyn Lipper Foundation. Dr. Sznitman and Dr. Vandrey have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
This article first appeared on Medscape.com.