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The Impact of Medical Cannabis on Migraines & Headaches

A migraine is a neurological disorder that causes recurring attacks of moderate to severe pain in the head. It is usually a throbbing pain or a pulse sensation on one side of the head. People suffering from migraines often feel sensitive to light and sound, nausea and/or vomiting can come along as well. Migraines can last for hours, even days, and the pain the person feels can be so severe that it becomes disabling.

Unlike what people think, migraines are not a bad headache. Migraines come with a collection of incapacitating neurological symptoms and 1/3 of the cases the pain is felt on both sides of the head. Migraines often start between childhood and early adulthood, being three times more common in women than in men. Some signs that the person is about to have a migraine attack is when they start seeing flashing light, temporarily losing their vision or seeing zigzag lines.

The causes of migraines are yet unknown, but it is suspected that they result from abnormal activity in the brain. There are some triggers that can cause migraine and some people are genetically more sensitive to these triggers. Around 12% of the U.S. population suffers from migraines.

The usual triggers are:

  • Hormonal changes, normal in women, especially during menstruation
  • Emotional triggers, like anxiety, depression, excitement, stress
  • Bad dieting, like excess of caffeine and alcohol
  • Lack of food or sleep
  • Light exposure

People take medicines either to prevent the migraine from happening or to alleviate the symptoms. Other treatments like relieving stress are helpful to prevent a migraine attack. An NCBI study suggested that cannabis-based medicines may treat migraine, fibromyalgia, IBS and other related conditions. These disorders possess common clinical, biochemical and psychopathological patterns that showed a possible endocannabinoid deficiency.

Further research from NCBI about “who is using cannabis?” made with 50 self-identified medical cannabis users pointed that many of them are using it for treating conditions, such as migraines, HIV, menstrual cramps, narcotic addiction, everyday aches and also recreational purposes. Few of them admitted negative experiences with cannabis.

The history of cannabis and migraine goes all the way back the years of 1874 and 1942 when the most prominent physicians esteemed cannabis as a headache remedy even into the mid-twentieth century. Even nowadays, ethnobotanical and anecdotal references still refer to cannabis efficacy for treating migraines. It is believed by the author that controlled clinical trials of cannabis in acute migraine treatment are justified.

Still, there are no consistent studies about the use of cannabis in migraines and headaches treatment. Meanwhile, people are continuously using cannabinoids and hallucinogens for relieving headaches, illegally, or sometimes helped by the number of states that already legalized cannabis. “Cannabinoids, in particular, have a long history of use in the abortive and prophylactic treatment of migraine before prohibition and are still used by patients as a migraine abortive in particular. Most practitioners are unaware of the prominence cannabis or “marijuana” once held in medical practice.” said another NCBI study conducted by Boston University School of Medicine.

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Data Last Updated 04/09/2020

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