Cannabis and migraine: here’s what science says

What science says about cannabis and migraine

We may have found a solution to a long-debated problem, but studies still tell us too little

Migraine, headache, or more generally headaches: how many people suffer from them, or know at least one person who does?

In this article, we will try to find out if and how marijuana can be our ally or our enemy in this battle that mankind fights for its health.

Migraine: an (increasingly) modern disease

Certainly, the various forms of headache are among the most annoying and damaging disorders for modern man, and the hectic pace of our society often increases their frequency and severity.

Some people find the appropriate medication after several attempts, while others are still searching for a cure.

Once again, more and more people are looking towards a substance that has been historically mistreated, recently re-evaluated, but about which the grey areas still outweigh the certainties we have: cannabis, and in particular light cannabis and CBD.

Its use as an antidote to one of the most common human ills, migraine, is increasingly common. But scientific research has not yet conclusively determined the effects of CBD. This is partly because in the past, there has been a lack of both the will and the means to carry out targeted research.

But this is changing.

Cannabis buds

CBD and migraine: new studies from the USA

A study by Washington State University, published in the Journal of Pain (Volume 21, May-June 2020), is very interesting in this respect.

Its stated aim was to determine whether inhaling cannabis smoke actually reduces migraine and headaches in general, as well as to analyse the incidence of certain variables such as the type of cannabis and the dose, while also considering the onset of tolerance in patients.

To achieve this, the researchers used data from Strainprint, a medical marijuana app that allows patients to track their pre-treatment symptoms and compare them to their condition at the end of treatment.

The sample of people studied consisted of 2,095 users of the app, of both sexes.

The study included 12,993 sessions in which cannabis was used against a general headache, and 7,441 sessions in which migraine was specifically targeted.

The study found that cannabis treatment benefited respondents: According to the researchers, headache, and migraine pain was reduced by approximately 50 per cent, with men reporting the best results.

However, the efficacy of the treatment seemed to diminish over time, as patients took larger and larger doses, suggesting tolerance to the active ingredient with long-term use.

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CBD and migraine: towards the first clinical trial

More recently, the University of California, San Diego, has also started trials in this area. Specifically, theirs is the world’s first randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial.

The researchers conducted the trial in a double-blind fashion, meaning that doctors administered the therapy to the patient and checked the effects without knowing which of the four treatments the subject had received.

In this way, they hope to ascertain whether THC and CBD are indeed weapons for fighting migraine without health risks. The new study differs from previous studies in that it does not rely on patients’ self-assessment, such as the previously mentioned study reported in the Journal of Pain.

Doctor and volunteer for migraine and cannabis study

The 20 volunteers (the researchers hope there will be 90), aged between 21 and 65, were divided into four groups. The first group was given THC, the second CBD, the third a mixture of the two and the fourth a placebo.

In doing so, the team, led by neurologist Nathaniel Schuster, will try to find out whether and how these substances could be a short- and long-term cure for migraine. On this subject, Schuster says: “Many migraine patients have had migraine for many years without talking to a doctor (…) Now when they ask us if cannabis works against the disease we have no data to answer for sure. That is why we started this clinical study.

While waiting for the results of this latest study, the hope for the immediate future is that more studies will be conducted, in order to shed light on a subject that many people are curious about, but also doubtful about.

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Cannabis and migraine: summary

In this article, we have dealt with the issue of migraine and presented the most important studies available on cannabis as a means of combating it.

As we have seen, the greatest resources are being deployed in the United States, where marijuana is legal, but the debate about this substance and its potential is also always alive.

And are you interested in the properties of cannabis?

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