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Sleep Apnea: Synthetic Cannabis Pill

CHICAGO. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – More than 12 million Americans suffer with sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder that causes your breathing to start and stop during rest and can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Now a much- needed new treatment could be as easy as popping a pill.

Getting a good night's sleep hasn't been easy for Lisa Smith. Each night is the same.

Smith told Ivanhoe, "I'm wide awake, tossing and turning."

She was diagnosed with sleep apnea last year after her daughter overheard her trying to sleep.

"She said, 'You sound like somebody is in that room starting motorcycles in your room. You snore real loud and sometimes you're not coming back," Smith explained.

Doctors prescribed a CPAP machine to help her restless nights.

Smith said, "The CPAP, although it helps me sleep, I get these marks and I've got to wait all day and try to pump my face back up, because I have marks all over my face."

But now, researchers are studying a new pill that could change that.

Roneil Malkani, MD, Neurologist of Sleep Medicine at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago told Ivanhoe, "This would be the first of its kind for sleep apnea."

Known as Dronabinol, if approved, the synthetic form of cannabis would be taken once at nighttime says Dr. Malkani.

"It is a medication that we think acts on nerve cells in the brain that activate the muscles in the upper airway," Dr. Malkani said.  Helping keep them open for more restful sleep- just what Lisa longs for.

She said, "If it will put me to sleep, I will do it!"

The drug has been used to help cancer patients gain weight and control nausea. The dosage for sleep apnea  is much smaller and researchers are hopeful the only side effect patients will experience is a good night's sleep.