Migraine is a neurological condition that causes severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, about 12% of the US population suffers from migraines, with women being three times more likely to experience them than men. Migraines can be debilitating and can severely impact a person’s quality of life. While there are prescription medications available to treat migraines, some people are turning to medical cannabis as an alternative treatment. In this blog post, we’ll explore whether medical cannabis can help with migraines, how it works, and what research says about its effectiveness.
What are Migraines?
Migraines are a complex neurological condition that involves changes in the brain’s blood flow and electrical activity. Migraines typically start as a throbbing pain on one side of the head, which can last from a few hours to several days. Migraines are often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances such as seeing flashing lights or zigzag lines. In some cases, people experience auras before the onset of a migraine, which are visual or sensory disturbances that can last for several minutes to an hour.
Current Treatments for Migraines
There are several prescription medications available to treat migraines, including triptans, ergots, and anti-nausea medications. These medications work by targeting different aspects of the migraine process, such as constricting blood vessels or reducing inflammation. While these medications can be effective for some people, they also come with potential side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, and rebound headaches.
Medical Cannabis and Migraines
Medical cannabis is becoming an increasingly popular alternative treatment for migraines. Cannabis contains over 100 different chemical compounds called cannabinoids, with two of the most well-known being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis and is responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis use. CBD, on the other hand, is not psychoactive and does not produce a high.
The endocannabinoid system is a complex cell-signaling system that plays a role in regulating a range of functions in the body, including pain perception, inflammation, and immune function. The two primary endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are found in various parts of the brain and body, including the peripheral and central nervous systems.
Medical cannabis may be effective for treating migraines due to its ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system. Research has shown that cannabinoids, particularly THC and CBD, may help to reduce pain and inflammation, which are two key components of migraines. Additionally, medical cannabis may help to reduce nausea and vomiting, which are common symptoms of migraines.
Research on Medical Cannabis and Migraines
While there is still a limited amount of research on medical cannabis and migraines, some studies have shown promising results. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Pain found that inhaled cannabis reduced migraine severity by 43.5% and had a positive impact on sleep quality. Another study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain in 2018 found that medical cannabis was effective in reducing the frequency of migraines in patients who suffered from chronic migraines.
However, it’s important to note that not all studies have shown positive results. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that while medical cannabis was no more effective than a placebo in reducing the frequency of migraines, it was associated with a higher risk of adverse effects such as dry mouth, dizziness, and fatigue.