UWA Study lead Professor Peter Eastwood said current evidence suggested medicinal cannabis could be a less invasive alternative to current drugs on the market.
A team of researchers from the University of Western Australia is set to embark on a world-first human clinical trial specifically examining the effects of medicinal cannabis on subjects suffering from chronic insomnia.
The study will be coordinated through the UWA Centre for Sleep Science using a cannabinoid extract provided by Zelda Therapeuatics, an Australian medical research and development company.
The participants will be taking either a placebo with no active ingredient or a medical cannabinoid, they will be administered for two weeks. They will then have a number of questions and assessment relating to how they slept (or didn’t). This will then be reversed and will continue for two more weeks with the same tests carried out. They will not be aware of which order they received the medication.
Sleep quality will be measured via wrist-based sleep trackers and questionnaires, with the trial also incorporating three monitored overnight sessions in the university’s sleep center.
“Prescription medicines such as benzodiazepines (e.g. Temazepam), non-benzodiazepine hypnotics (e.g.Stilnox, Sonata, Imovane) and some antidepressants and antihistamines can have unpleasant side effects and when used long-term can result in dependence and withdrawal symptoms,” says lead on the upcoming study, Peter Eastwood. “Based on previous research we believe a small dose of medicinal cannabinoid may be effective for treating chronic insomnia and have fewer side effects than current drug treatment options.”
As with many conditions the relationship between cannabis and sleep is a surprisingly understudied area. There are over 100 different chemicals present in the cannabis plant and recent medical research has only just begun to isolate these different compounds and understand their individual effects. The most abundant and well-known compounds research tends to focus on are THC (D9-tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol) and CBN (cannabinol).
“The use of medicinal cannabis for treating conditions such as epilepsy and chronic pain is reasonably well documented, however its use for treating insomnia is considered experimental,” Professor Eastwood said.
Zelda Therapeutics Executive Chairman Harry Karelis said it had been a very rigorous process but they were now well positioned to undertake a clinical trial of this nature in Australia.
“We are very pleased to have partnered with the leading researchers in this field and the prestigious UWA Centre for Sleep Science, and are confident this clinical trial will deliver the high-quality data we need to further develop and commercialise our medicinal cannabis formulation,” Mr Karelis said.
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