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Could This Medication Help Treat Sleep Apnea?

According to a new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University, researchers believe they have discovered a drug that could lower the frequency of apneic episodes in patients with sleep apnea. The medication, dronabinol, is currently used to help chemotherapy patients deal with nausea and vomiting during treatments.  

Testing the Use of Dronabinol for Sleep Apnea Treatment

Three groups of adults participated in the study. The first received a placebo, the second group received a low dose of dronabinol, and the third group received a higher dose. All participants took the medication before bed, once a day, for six weeks. The patients who took the higher dose saw results consistent with improvement in their sleep apnea-related symptoms. They suffered fewer apneic episodes and saw a decrease in their subjective level of sleepiness. However, there was no improvement of the amount of sleep they had each night.

Although the results indicate that medications could potentially help control the symptoms of sleep apnea, one doctor in Lynwood, Washington, believes he has found a way to cure the condition rather than just treating the symptoms.

Could There be a Cure for Sleep Apnea?

"The core of the problem seems to be the underdevelopment of the jaw," said Dr. David Buck, DDS.

Buck has spent years studying the history of jaw development and analyzing past studies. He believes past studies have established misinformed norms, or normal measurements, when it comes to cranial facial development. 

"Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s normal," Buck said. "Newer thinking provides newer insights into what are more appropriate skeletal reference measurements that we could treat to. But, we're anchored to these norms that were often created in the 1950s and '60s and that are truly outdated."

In his practice, he focuses on using epigenetic therapy to help the jaw grow to its full potential before treating patients with sleep apnea problems, as well as patients with jaw and orthodontic issues. When it comes to sleep apnea, he believes there must be room for the tongue in order to treat the condition instead of just the symptoms.

"My appliances work three-fold," Buck said. "They act as a retainer after orthodontics, they act to protect the teeth from being damaged, and they act to treat the muscles so the muscles can relax and decompress the joints at the same time. On top of all of that, we open up the airway. This allows for true rest."

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway collapses during deeper levels of sleep, causing negative sympathetic nervous system overstimulation. More than 18 million adults in the United States suffer from sleep apnea, and many in the medical community believe that number is actually higher in reality due to common misdiagnosis.

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