Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia to reduce cannabis use: Results from a pilot randomized controlled trial

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2023 May 1;246:109835. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2023.109835. Epub 2023 Mar 11.


Background: Individuals with regular cannabis use demonstrate adverse health outcomes, yet infrequently seek treatment. Insomnia, a common co-occurring complaint, could be targeted to reduce cannabis use and improve functioning in these individuals. In an intervention development study, we refined and tested the preliminary efficacy of a telemedicine-delivered CBT for insomnia tailored to individuals with regular cannabis use for sleep (CBTi-CB-TM).

Methods: In this single-blind randomized trial, fifty-seven adults (43 women, mean age 37.6 ± 12.8 years) with chronic insomnia and cannabis use for sleep ≥3 times/week received CBTi-CB-TM (n = 30) or sleep hygiene education (SHE-TM, n = 27). Participants completed self-reported assessments of insomnia (Insomnia Severity Index [ISI]) and cannabis use (Timeline Followback [TLFB] and daily diary data) at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and 8-week follow-up.

Results: ISI scores improved significantly more in the CBTi-CB-TM compared to SHE-TM condition (β = -2.83, se=0.84, P = 0.004, d=0.81). At 8-week follow-up, 18/30 (60.0 %) CBTi-CB-TM compared to 4/27 (14.8 %) SHE-TM participants were in remission from insomnia (X2 =12.8, P = 0.0003). The TLFB showed a small reduction in past 30-day cannabis use for both conditions (β = -0.10, se=0.05, P = 0.026); CBTi-CB-TM participants demonstrated greater post-treatment reductions in the % of days cannabis was used within 2 h of bedtime (-29.1 ± 7.9 % fewer days vs. 2.6 ± 8.0 % more days, P = 0.008).

Conclusions: CBTi-CB-TM is feasible, acceptable, and demonstrated preliminary efficacy for improving sleep and cannabis-related outcomes among non-treatment-seeking individuals with regular cannabis use for sleep. Although sample characteristics limit generalizability, these findings support the need for adequately powered randomized controlled trials with longer follow-up periods.

Keywords: CBT; Cannabis; Insomnia; Randomized controlled trial; Telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cannabis*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy* / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult