Benzodiazepines constitute a class of medication with sedative properties commonly used as the main treatment for a variety of neurological conditions, including most noticeably insomnia, anxiety, alcohol use disorders and seizure disorders. While this group of medication is considered to be relatively safe compared to previous sedatives, it does have associated acute and chronic side effects. As a result, discontinuation of benzodiazepine use may be beneficial to many patients, which is why a group of Canadian clinical researchers recently investigated benzodiazepine discontinuation rates among patients prescribed medical cannabis therapy.
Analysis was performed on records of a cohort of 146 medical cannabis patients who reported benzodiazepine use at initiation of cannabis therapy to quantify associations of the proportion of benzodiazepine use with time on medical cannabis therapy. After completing the first 2-month prescription course of medical cannabis, 44 patients (30.1%) had discontinued benzodiazepines. At a follow-up after two prescriptions, 65 patients (44.5%) and at the final follow-up period after three medical cannabis prescription courses, 66 patients (45.2%) had discontinued benzodiazepine use. In short, over an average of 6 months, the cessation rate of benzodiazepine steadily increased and at the end, 45.2% of the patients successfully had discontinued their pre-existing benzodiazepine usage.
This observation suggested a correlation between therapeutic use of cannabis and use of sedatives such as benzodiazepine. While cessation of reliance on sedatives might be a benefit of medical cannabis, cannabis use also poses its own set of risks. Therefore, careful consideration of the risks-benefits trade-off as well as its interaction with other medication is crucial before cannabis is prescribed.