Access to Recreational Cannabis & Sleep Aid Sales in Colorado

Written by Lisa Rennie

It’s estimated that anywhere from 50 to 70 million American adults suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Not getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis can have far-reaching effects on many aspects of health. People who suffer from a sleep disorder like insomnia are often prescribed treatments to help them get the sleep they need to maintain their energy levels and ward off illness.

But many people battling insomnia have been turning to cannabis or cannabidiol (CBD) to help them to get the quality sleep they desperately need, as opposed to using over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids, according to a recent study.

This study, published in the Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal, found that access to recreational cannabis in Colorado was associated with a decline in the sale of OTC treatments.[1]

Researchers analyzed sales from Colorado grocery stores from December 2013 to December 2014, using Universal Product Code data to quantify the monthly market share of OTC sleep medications at various store locations throughout the state. They found that sales of OTC sleep aids declined after recreational cannabis was made available in dispensaries in 2014 following full legalization in 2012.

Researchers also noticed that, as more and more licensed cannabis shops opened in counties throughout the state, cannabis sales increased, ultimately reducing the market share of conventional sleep aids. Medications like diphenhydramine and doxylamine were the most significantly impacted compared to more natural types of sleep aids, such as melatonin.[1]

This association between an increase in recreational cannabis sales and decrease in OTC sleep aid sales suggest that consumers may prefer cannabis over traditional pharmaceuticals–or are likely to switch if the products are widely available and accessible. It’s important to note that this study revealed an association but not a causal link between the two. We can’t say for certain that the reduced OTC sales were directly related to cannabis.

Nonetheless, this study is not alone in its findings. Many different reports have indicated a link between cannabinoids and sleep. CBD in particular has been shown to have a potential therapeutic impact on treating insomnia, possibly due to its ability to improve Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, sleep and reduce excessive daytime sleepiness. CBD may also help to promote better sleep by minimizing pain that impedes a person’s ability to rest fully.[2]

If you are interested in using medical cannabis or CBD to treat your insomnia or switch it out from your current treatment, be sure to talk to your doctor. Sweet dreams!

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  1. Doremusa JM, et al. Using recreational cannabis to treat insomnia: Evidence from over-the-counter sleep aid sales in Colorado. Complement. Ther. Med. 2019;47:1-7.
  2. Babson KA, et al. Cannabis, cannabinoids, and sleep: A review of the literature. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017;19(4):1-12.

About the author

Lisa Rennie

Lisa Simoneli Rennie has been working as a freelance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content dedicated to informing consumers. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with others, and in her spare time, Lisa enjoys trying funky new recipes, spending time with her dog, and of course, reveling in the joy of family.