Cannabinoid Use in the Treatment of Laryngeal Dystonia and Vocal Tremor: A Pilot Investigation

J Voice. 2023 Jun 10:S0892-1997(23)00158-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jvoice.2023.05.006. Online ahead of print.


Objectives/hypothesis: Laryngeal dystonia and vocal tremor can be debilitating conditions with suboptimal treatment options. Botulinum toxin chemodenervation is typically the first-line treatment and is considered the gold standard. However, patient response to botulinum toxin varies widely. There is anecdotal evidence for the use of cannabinoids in treating laryngeal dystonia with a scarcity of research investigating this potential treatment option. The primary objective of this study is to survey patients with laryngeal dystonia and vocal tremor to gauge how some people are using cannabinoids to treat their condition and to ascertain patient perceptions of cannabinoid effectiveness.

Study design: This is a cross-sectional survey study.

Methods: An eight-question anonymous survey was distributed to people with abductor spasmodic dysphonia adductor spasmodic dysphonia, vocal tremor, muscle tension dysphonia, and mixed laryngeal dystonia via the Dysphonia International (formerly National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association) email listserv.

Results: 158 responses: 25 males and 133 females, (mean [range] age, 64.9 [22-95] years). 53.8% of participants had tried cannabinoids for the purposes of treating their condition at some point, with 52.9% of this subset actively using cannabis as part of their treatment. Most participants who have used cannabinoids as a treatment rank their effectiveness as somewhat effective (42.4%) or ineffective (45.9%). Participants cited a reduction in voice strain and anxiety as reasons for cannabinoid effectiveness.

Conclusions: People with laryngeal dystonia and/or vocal tremor currently use or have tried using cannabinoids as a treatment for their condition. Cannabinoids were better received as a supplementary treatment than as a stand-alone treatment.

Keywords: Botox chemodenervation; Cannabinoids; Laryngeal dystonia; Muscle tension dysphonia; Spasmodic dysphonia; Vocal tremor.