Purcell C., Davis A, Moolman N, Taylor SM. Reduction of benzodiazepine use in patients prescribed medical cannabis. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 2019;4(3): 214-218. (open access)

Why was this study conducted?

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications commonly used to treat anxiety and other medical conditions conditions. As they are associated with several will-known adverse effects, such as sedation, poor concentration, and addiction, it would be helpful to have effective alternatives. This retrospective cohort study was conducted to see if cannabis may be a potential candidate.

What does this study add?

This study was a retrospective analysis of a database associated with medical cannabis clinics in Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Physicians working in these clinics collect patient-reported information at each visit. At an initial visit there were 207 people who identified taking benzodiazepine and 146 (70.5%) of those were prescribed cannabis and completed the study. The study sample tended to be middle-aged (mean age of 47.7 years), 61.0% female, and 54.3% were already using cannabis at intake. At two months, 44 of the 146 (30.1%) had discontinued benzodiazepines, increasing to 65 (44.5%) at four months, and to 66 (45.2%) at six months. There were no significant differences in the cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content taken by those who did or did not discontinue benzodiazepine.

Is there anything else I should know?

There was no control group so it is unclear whether, or to what extent, medical cannabis contributed to benzodiazepine discontinuation. Although this study was small, retrospective and uncontrolled, the results were promising and suggest further research is warranted.

Author Details

The latest scientific evidence on this topic was reviewed by the Centre's leadership team. This research summary is written by Corinne Hodgson, DHealth, assessed for accuracy by Dr. James MacKillop, PhD. There are no conflicts of interest. Questions regarding this piece should be directed to Dr. James MacKillop (jmackill@mcmaster.ca).

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