Nabilone, a synthetic compound that mimics THC – the main psychoactive constituent of the plant cannabis, is a medication indicated for preventing nausea and vomiting in cancer patients. In ongoing clinical trials, it has also demonstrated efficacy for several other conditions, most noticeably the treatment of insomnia and nightmares in patients with psychiatric disorders, the management of chronic pain, and harm reduction in marijuana dependence. These various benefits make nabilone a promising medication for managing concurrent disorders. Aware of such values, researchers from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa and the Integrated Forensic Program, Royal Ottawa Health Care Group examined the effectiveness of nabilone in treating a seriously mentally ill correctional population with multiple diagnoses.
The study was conducted at the St Lawrence Valley Correctional and Treatment Centre, a hybrid mental health and correctional center. One hundred and four male inmates with concurrent serious mental illnesses were prescribed nabilone and the indications, efficacy, and safety of its use were evaluated. Results showed that patients experienced significant improvement in PTSD-associated insomnia, nightmares, and chronic pain. Furthermore, on average, nabilone alleviated 3.5 conditions per patient, thus reducing the need for multiple medications. Also worth noticing was that there was no evidence of nabilone abuse within this high-risk population and following initiation of nabilone, many patients were able to discontinue the use of medications associated with greater risk for adverse effects or abuse, such as antipsychotics and sedative/hypnotics.
Together, these findings corroborate the potential of nabilone as a safe, effective treatment for patients with concurrent mental disorders in correctional facilities.