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First Ever Clinical Trial for Cannabis Migraine Treatment is Underway

June 17, 2021 08:00 am ET
First Ever Clinical Trial for Cannabis Migraine Treatment is Underway

Research and anecdotal reports have already displayed that cannabis can be used to treat the symptoms of migraines. However, there has not been a clinical trial assessing the efficacy of cannabis for migraines, at least not until now. Science Alert has announced that the first clinical trial for cannabis as a migraine treatment is underway. This is exciting news for individuals who suffer from this debilitating condition. Which is much more than a pain in your head.  

Despite the fact that cannabis has been used to treat pain, including head pain, the necessitated clinical trials on cannabis as a treatment are still in their early stages. If you aren’t aware of what clinical trials are, the National Institute on Aging (the NIA) explains that clinical trials are: research studies performed in people that are aimed at evaluating a medical, surgical, or behavioral intervention”. By making use of clinical trials, researchers are able to find out if the treatment is safe and effective in people. The majority of the available research on the safety and efficacy of cannabis has been limited to animal studies, anecdotal reports as well as studies analyzing the self-reported experiences of participants. 

The First Clinical Trial for Migraines and Cannabis

Science Alert explains that this first clinical trial on cannabis for migraines is a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. This means that the human participants will be split into groups where neither the participants nor the experimenters know who is receiving which treatment. It also means that the groups will randomly be assigned the cannabis treatment or a placebo. By doing it this way, the researchers have a group, known as the control group, which will allow them to compare the efficacy of cannabis as a potential treatment compared to those who are receiving a placebo (a substance with no therapeutic effect). 

They go on to explain that there are currently 20 participants enrolled in the trial but the University of California San Diego is hoping to enroll at least another 70 volunteers. Science Alert explains that this clinical trial is of vital importance due to the impact on the quality of life that the substance has on the individuals who are suffering from it. Aside from the pain, the migraines can also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound, often causing the individual to cease their functioning to lay down. 

UC San Diego explains that the participants will either receive “ THC, CBD, a combination of the two and a placebo”. They also explain that the current treatments for migraines are not equally effective from one person to another and that the longer the individuals take the treatment, the higher the risk of the treatment becoming ineffective due to tolerance build-ups

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Those Who Have Migraines Usually Self-Treat Symptoms

Headache neurologist, Nathaniel Schuster, stated that “many patients who suffer from migraines have experienced them for many years but have never discussed them with their physicians. They are, rather, self-treating with various treatments, such as cannabis”. He also explains that “right now, when patients ask us if cannabis works for migraines, we do not have evidence-based data to answer that question”- but perhaps this will no longer be the case once the clinical trial has been concluded. 

The University of California San Diego announced their clinical trial and offered up the personal experience of Allison Kingge who explained that her experience with migraines is “a piercing pain” which feels like her “brain is being squeezed”. She goes on to explain that “there have been times when” she has had a “pain level of 6 or higher for approximately 25 days out of the month” which impacted her quality of life significantly as one can imagine with so much consistent pain. 

Kingge also explains that her “migraines are triggered by weather, stress, and lack of sleep” and that when her pain is at its peak, she has to spend her day in bed with the lights out. She also expressed that migraines make it challenging to perform her role as a mother” and that she joined this clinical trial because she is willing to “try anything that could help manage” the migraines. 

She stated that she Is “proud and grateful to be part of a study that could lead to more tools in the toolbox for those of us who suffer from migraines”. This “could mean one more option when all other options have not worked” which is “truly significant for patients whose lives are disrupted on a regular basis from migraines”. 

Dr. Shuster also explains that “vaporized cannabis may be more effective for those patients who have nausea or gastrointestinal issues with their migraines”. Migraine patients who wish to participate in the study need to experience migraines every month and should not be regular cannabis or opioid user. Additionally, the participants need to be between the ages of 21 and 65. 

If you would like to volunteer for the clinical trial, you can enroll by visiting the UC San Diego Health Clinical Trials or by contacting Phirum Nguyen at psnguyen@ucsd.edu

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