Reduced Sales of Sleep Aids in Colorado

Written by Asia Mayfield

You don’t always need a state-issued card to medicate with cannabis. In states with legal recreational cannabis, consumers can experiment on their own.

Data suggests that’s exactly what people are doing.

Researchers in Colorado found that the sale of over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids dropped when legal adult use cannabis hit the market. [1] The study focused on Colorado counties during the timeframe of December 2013 to December 2014, measuring “annually-differenced market shares for sleep aids as a portion of the overall OTC medication market…” The researchers found that OTC sleep aids lost market share growth (236% decline) as cannabis dispensaries were introduced to an area. Higher cannabis sales were correlated with a larger decline, and prior to the legalization of cannabis in a specific area, sales of sleep aids were rising.

Nearly 50% of American adults experience sleep disturbances. Often, these problems aren’t persistent or severe enough to warrant serious medical intervention. However, that doesn’t mean that trouble sleeping can’t interfere with quality of life. People are motivated to find a solution. Pharmaceutical sleep aids can be effective, but they aren’t guaranteed to work and are associated with a host of unwanted, potentially serious side effects. [1]

Cannabis isn’t guaranteed to be effective either. However, there may be fewer drawbacks and more advantages. Cannabis has been shown to have pain-relieving qualities. [2] This could be one of the ways that cannabis helps people sleep easier. [1]

Although there’s now evidence to support the idea that cannabis is effective as a sleep aid, there’s not a lot of evidence demonstrating that the belief is true. The Colorado researchers determined that “investigations designed to measure the relative effectiveness and side effect profiles of conventional OTC sleep aids and cannabis-based products are urgently needed…” [1]

Such studies will be refreshingly easier to conduct as cannabis legalization spreads across the country.

Image source: One Medical


  1. Doremus JM, et al. “Using Recreational Cannabis to Treat Insomnia: Evidence from Over-the-Counter Sleep Aid Sales in Colorado.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine, vol.47, no. 102207, 2019. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2019.102207. Impact Factor: 1.979; Times Cited: N/A
  2. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2017. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington DC: The National Academies Press; 2017.

About the author

Asia Mayfield

Asia Mayfield is a freelance writer who focuses on the cannabis industry. She can be reached at

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