Cannabinoid drugs: will they relieve or exacerbate tinnitus?

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Purpose of review 

Recent enthusiasm for cannabinoid drugs for the treatment of chronic pain and some forms of epilepsy, raises the question of whether they could be useful for other disorders associated with abnormal neuronal activity in the brain, such as subjective tinnitus. Indeed, there is evidence to indicate that some tinnitussufferers self-medicate using Cannabis. The aim of this review is to critically evaluate the available evidence relating to the effects of cannabinoids on tinnitus.

Recent findings 

Despite the fact that cannabinoids have been shown to decrease neuronal hyperactivity in many parts of the brain, the current evidence suggests that in auditory brain regions such as the dorsal cochlear nucleus, they have the potential to facilitate neuronal hyperactivity and exacerbate tinnitus. All of the available experimental evidence from animal studies suggests that cannabinoid CB1 receptor agonists will either have no effect on tinnitus or will worsen it.

Summary 

In our opinion, the use of the available cannabinoid drugs to alleviate tinnitus, based on their alleged efficacy for neuropathic pain conditions and some forms of epilepsy, is premature and not supported by the available evidence.

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