A new study has found using marijuana for migraines helped alleviate pain in a large group of patients. While further study is needed, cannabis could provide another treatment option for the millions who suffer from migraines.
Migraines impact the lives of 39 million people in the United States and one billion worldwide, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. An estimated one out of every four U.S. households has someone who suffers from migraines. It is the third most prevalent illness in the world.
In the new study, published in the Journal of Pain, researchers found using marijuana for migraines led to an about 50% reduction in the severity of migraines for hundreds of sufferers.
The First Study of Its Kind
The study is the first of its kind involving data on using marijuana for migraines collected in real-time, rather than asking patients to recall the effects of cannabis as past studies have done.
“We were motivated to do this study because a substantial number of people say they use cannabis for headaches and migraines, but surprisingly few studies had addressed the topic,” Carrie Cuttler, the Washington State University assistant professor of psychology who led the study, told Science Daily.
Their approach was straightforward. Researchers analyzed data submitted by patients through the Strainprint app. Patients recorded information on their tracking of migraine symptoms both before and after using medical cannabis.
The study included data from 1,300 people. They used the app more than 12,200 times to track changes in their migraine-related pain. Another 653 people used the app to track changes in migraine severity.
Cuttler said researchers wanted to gauge how patients did while “using whole plant cannabis to medicate in their own homes and environments.” The vast amount of data also gave researchers the assurance they could “appropriately and accurately generalize” the study findings to the greater population of patients.
The Study’s Key Findings
In addition to the finding that using marijuana for migraines reduced pain severity by around 50%, the study produced other interesting results. Among the most notable are the following.
- They found no evidence of “overuse headache,” which happens with some medications as patients use more and their headaches worsen over time.
- Using cannabis oil led to a bigger reduction in migraine pain than using cannabis flower
- The level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in cannabis that causes the high, had no correlation with the plant’s effectiveness in treating migraine pain
- Men reported more sessions of reduced pain than women did
The study concludes that while there is promise in cannabis treating migraines, more study is needed. Researchers suggested a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial that would rule out placebo effects. It also would offer the opportunity for deeper study into the types of cannabis and combinations of THC and CBD that prove most effective in reducing migraine pain.