By Eric Dolan

A new study has found that many patients stop using benzodiazepine after receiving medical cannabis. The findings have been published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

“I was interested in this project because it presented an opportunity to address benzodiazepines and cannabis use, both of which are becoming increasingly socially relevant. Benzodiazepines can be effective in treating many medical conditions but unlike opioids, there seems to be little public awareness of the risks associated with these commonly used prescription medications,” said study author Chad Purcell, a medical student at Dalhousie University.

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications used to treat conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. They include Alprazolam (Xanax, Niravam) diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan) and others.

“Having previously worked as a pharmacist, I observed first-hand how benzodiazepines affected the lives of my patients. I became familiar with the adverse effects of these medications that include dependency, falls and increased sedation — especially when used in combination with other medications,” Purcell explained.

“I was excited to investigate the potential mitigation of these risks. With the legalization of cannabis in Canada, Canadian researchers are uniquely positioned to contribute to the developing body literature on the drug. I wanted to take this opportunity to help further understand of the potential uses and harms of cannabis.”

The researchers observed significant benzodiazepine discontinuation rates in 146 medical cannabis patients, who were all regularly consuming benzodiazepines at the beginning of the study. Approximately 45 percent of patients had stopped taking benzodiazepine medication within about six months of beginning medical cannabis.

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