Marijuana and migraines: does the former help the latter? Migraines are debilitating headaches that consume your entire body and can sideline you for hours or even days. Migraines are a neurological disease that affects people of all ages, and while there are many migraine medications that may be able to improve your condition or your symptoms, recent research shows that marijuana might be able to effectively decrease your migraines in a more natural way.
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines affect 39 million men, women and children in the U.S. and 1 billion worldwide. Those millions of people are not just experiencing bad headaches. A migraine is a disabling condition that comes with severe throbbing pain, as well as nausea, extreme sensitivity to all sensory elements including light, sound and touch, dizziness and even numbness.
There are several treatments that can help prevent migraines and can help reduce the symptoms and the degree of pain, but the sad truth is that most migraine sufferers don’t seek medical attention, or go undiagnosed, making it impossible to properly treat their condition. And even if a patient was to seek treatment, there are risks associated with prescription pain medication, especially in light of the opioid epidemic sweeping our nation.
What to Know About Marijuana and Migraines
Recent research shows that marijuana may treat migraine pain even better than prescription pain meds. Add this to the long list of health benefits and medical uses for cannabis.
The study, published in 2016 in the Journal Pharmacotherapy, set out to investigate the relationship between medical marijuana use and frequency of migraine headaches. The results, after studying 121 adults with chronic migraines, show that the use of medical marijuana did, in fact, reduce the number of migraines per month.
The results show that “migraine headache frequency decreased from 10.4 to 4.6 headaches per month (p<0.0001) with the use of medical marijuana.” And in addition, “positive effects were reported in 48 patients (39.7%), with the most common effects reported being prevention of migraine headache with decreased frequency of migraine headache (24 patients [19.8%]) and aborted migraine headache (14 patients [11.6%]).”
Another, more recent study backs up these findings, and supports that not only can medical marijuana reduce the frequency of migraine and cluster headaches, but it does so effectively with fewer side effects than prescription medications. And beyond that, the results of this study show that the patients who were given doses of two active compounds in marijuana: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), experienced a dramatic reduction in migraine pain, a 43.5% reduction to be exact.
These findings were reported at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and prove that where migraines are concerned, “marijuana compounds as less risky alternatives to prescription pain meds.”
Understanding How Marijuana Treats Migraines
There’s still a lot we don’t know, and a lot more research on marijuana and migraines that needs to be done. But the theory is that the feel-good brain chemical serotonin plays an important role in this equation. According to the experts at Johns Hopkins, waves of activity in the brain “trigger chemicals, such as serotonin, to narrow blood vessels. Serotonin is a chemical necessary for communication between nerve cells. It can cause narrowing of blood vessels throughout the body.” That narrowing leads to throbbing head pain and possibly migraines. Cannabis has the ability to stimulate production of dopamine (another brain chemical) and inhibit the release of serotonin, which reduces pain and may explain how marijuana treats migraines.
What Does this Mean for Migraine Sufferers?
It means you have another option. It means that the future of migraine treatment is constantly evolving and developing as clinical trials and more research is done, but as we learn more about the positive effects of medical marijuana, you can expect cannabis to be a viable option for migraine treatment.
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