Marijuana Use May Cause Excessive Daytime Sleepiness In Teens: Report

By Judy Mottl | Feb 17, 2015 11:16 PM EST

You may want to file this in the 'duh, tell me something I don't know,' file but just in case you don't keep up with scientific research on marijuana apparently it can make the average teenager sleepier in the daytime than those who aren't toking.

A study of teens evaluated for displaying excessive daytime sleepiness issues, thought to possibly be suffering from narcolepsy, reveals that 10 percent produced positive drug screen results indicating marijuana use.

The research, conducted by Nationwide Children's Hospital, is evidence of the need to urine screen patients older than 13 years old when evaluating potential narcolepsy ailments, say the authors.

"Our findings highlight and support the important step of obtaining a urine drug screen, in any patients older than 13 years of age, before accepting test findings consistent with narcolepsy, prior to physicians confirming this diagnosis," said senior author Mark L. Splaingard, MD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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Splainguard said urine screening is a valuable tool when studying or treating a populations that may be prone to narcolepsy and is even more important today given the move by states to legalize marijuana.

Testing for narcolepsy involves a standard multiple sleep latency test (MSLT), which includes four to five daytime nap episodes in which speed of sleep onset and rapid eye movement sleep are tracked and calculated. Studies relating to adults suspected of suffering from narcolepsy have revealed that certain medications and drug use can impact MSLT results.

The 10-year-old study of teens, which involved 383 participants, reveals that same results, say the researchers, and is the first to investigate the prevalence of positive drug screens in pediatric patients participating in MSLT.

"A key finding of this study is that marijuana use may be associated with excessive daytime sleepiness in some teenagers," said Splaingard. He recommends conducting a clinical evaluation process that includes a urine drug screen before seriously considering narcolepsy or making an official diagnosis of narcolepsy especially among the teen population.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 43 percent of children with urine drug screens positive for marijuana also had test results consistent with abnormal REM sleep patterns and narcolepsy. In terms of who's smoking pot, teenage boys were found more likely than girls to test positive and to have test results consistent with narcolepsy, states the study.

"We believe that many of the children who had positive urine drug testing for marijuana and testing consistent with narcolepsy had improvement of the symptom of excessive day time sleepiness after enrollment in a community drug program," said Splaingard. The physician is a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. The fact the teens did not return for further evaluation of potential narcolepsy indicates the symptoms were tied to drug use, he added.

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