A cannabis inhaler could help millions of insomnia sufferers doze off within 10 minutes, its inventor has claimed.
The new hand-held device squirts a dose of the drug into the lungs that is just enough to have a sedative effect without getting users high.
Researchers say their tests of the ICANsleep gadget show just one dose is all that is needed to work.
Furthermore, they claims participant of the study woke up refreshed with no unpleasant side-effects.
ICANsleep – which looks like an asthma puffer – costs around £100.
It will be made available in Israel and California next year after further trials. The manufacturers hope to convince the UK’s drug watchdog to make it legal.
The ICANsleep inhaler is claimed to allow insomnia sufferers to doze off within 10 minutes (stock photo)
THE LEGAL STATUS OF CANNABIS AS MEDICINE
Cannabis has two key ingredients – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The THC gets you stoned, and has also been linked to anxiety and mental health problems.
But, isolated, CBD has the opposite effect, often calming people down – which is why some people are using it in small doses as medicine.
Products used for medical purposes that contain CBD must now be licensed before they can legally be supplied in the UK.
This follows last year’s decision by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which ruled the ingredient should be classed as medicine.
It had looked at CBD because a number of manufacturing companies had been making ‘overt medicinal claims’ about products.
But ICAN’s inhaler uses THC, which is not classed as a medicine in the UK. Therefore, it would need to be approved by MHRA for it to be legally sold here.
Cannabis is still illegal in the UK, and anyone using it could be charged with possession.
It is estimated a third of adults suffer from occasional bouts of insomnia.
And the cost is more than just fatigue. Lack of regular sleep is linked to raised risk of depression, obesity, heart attack, stroke and diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy.
Our ‘open all hours’ culture, increasing stress noise and lights and mobile devices are just a few of the modern lifestyle factors that are blamed.
Millions of Britons are prescribed sleeping tablets – which come with a range of health risks.
Key findings of the study
Israeli researchers developed a device which turns cannabis into a vapour.
It was designed to contain less than a quarter of the amount of THC – the main psychoactive chemical that gets users high – you would find in a joint.
Animal tests suggest the puffer worked in ten minutes or less.
ICAN, the Israeli firm which makes the inhaler, insists the gadget is safe and not addictive.
Boss Saul Kaye told The Sun: ‘Insomnia is mostly an anxiety disorder and cannabis can be very effective at reducing anxiety.
‘Also, it does not leave you feeling like you have a hangover.’
And investor William Levine of CannRx said: ‘You take a puff or two depending on the dosage and in ten minutes you will be drowsy enough to sleep.’
However, Dr Neil Stanley, former head of sleep research at Surrey University, told the newspaper the jury is still out on cannabis and warned more research was needed.
For ICANsleep to be available in the UK it would need to get approval from the drug safety watchdog the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA).
The manufacturers held CannaTechUK, the UK’s first ever cannabis medical conference, in London last month to spark further interest and debate around the issue and products like ICANsleep.
Mr Kaye said: ‘The MRHA and regulators are starting to see the need for better regulation that reflects the current social and medical status of cannabis, yet they are moving slower than pretty much everyone else out there.
‘Interest from UK investors in the sector is at an all-time high. Mothers are outraged over the lack of access to products for epilepsy, pain, and cancer treatments. As we have seen in other countries this is one of the biggest drivers towards better access for patients.’
Sleeping pills danger
COULD COMPOUNDS IN CANNABIS EASE ASTHMA?
A team of Israeli researchers believe cannabis components could be a treatment for asthma and other respiratory conditions.
Hebrew University scientists are investigating the benefits of CBD, the non-psychoactive component of the drug.
They say that while asthma and allergies are generally well controlled by current drugs, some patients prove to be steroid-resistant.
‘We are looking forward to investigating whether the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD will work in treating this disease,’ said Professor Raphael Mechoulam.
The research has been commissioned by CIITECH, a UK-Israeli biotech startup headed by Clifton Flack, who cofounded iCAN-Israel Cannabis.
He said: ‘Cannabis could well become this century’s wonder drug and we’re honored to have the opportunity to support Professors Mechoulam and Levi-Schaffer on this preclinical research project.’
Over recent years, scientists have conducted various studies to assess the true side-effects and risks of taking sleeping pills.
They have found an increased risk of heart attacks, broken bones, dementia and infections.
And according to one expert, they pose the same threat as smoking a packet of cigarettes each day.
MailOnline reported in June that a worrying body of evidence is emerging over their dangers, with growing links to cancer, debilitating falls and even heart attacks.
Arizona State University sleep researcher Shawn Youngstedt believes those seeking a good night’s rest should instead exercise more.
This brief stint of physical activity helps to burn you out, aiding you in your quest to fall asleep naturally, he said.
Researchers have long argued the need for safe treatments for insomnia due to the health risks it poses.
Mr Youngstedt told CNN: ‘Sleeping pills are extremely hazardous. They are as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
‘Not to mention they cause infections, falling and dementia in the elderly, and they lose their effectiveness after a few weeks.
‘It’s less expensive, healthier and just as easy to exercise and there’s an added bonus: research suggests those who are physically active a have lower risk of developing insomnia in the first place.’