Is Cannabis an Effective Treatment for Migraines?

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The first clinical trial to assess whether cannabis products can treat acute migraines is currently underway at the University of California San Diego.

In recent years, cannabis, also called marijuana, has become widely popular among scientists and doctors. Once hailed as a recreational drug, the psychoactive drug now helps treat a wide variety of ailments. From reducing seizures in children to treating antibiotic-resistant infections, the cannabis plant seems to have several medicinal properties. Moreover, cannabis has been used as a potential treatment for migraines for over centuries.

Migraine is a debilitating neurological condition characterized by recurrent headaches. The throbbing headaches typically occur on one side of the head and can last for hours to days. Additionally, a person may also experience nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, numbness, and visual disturbances. Although there are several treatment options, the legalization of the drug among various western countries has led to people turning to cannabis for their migraines. However, not enough clinical trials have been conducted for the assessment of cannabis’s migraine treatment properties.

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. Right now, when patients ask us if cannabis works for migraines, we do not have evidence-based data to answer that question.

Dr Nathaniel Schuster, investigator at the UC San Diego Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research

Trials Underway in UC San Diego

Now, the first placebo-controlled clinical trial, investigating cannabis as a potential treatment for acute migraines, is underway in UC San Diego. The trial aims to recruit a total of 90 participants who experience monthly migraines. However, they should not be regular users of opioid or cannabis. Currently, 20 participants have enrolled in the trial.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two main compounds that the trial will assess. THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, whereas CBD has no psychoactive properties.

Researchers plan to randomly allocate participants into one of four treatment groups. Therefore, participants will either receive a placebo, cannabis flower containing THC, cannabis flower containing CBD, or a combination of both THC and CBD. Participants will inhale the cannabis flower using a vape.

Vaporized cannabis may be more effective for those patients who have nausea or gastrointestinal issues with their migraines

Dr Nathaniel Schuster, investigator at the UC San Diego Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research

The trial will assess which treatment option works best for treatment of headache, nausea, light and sound sensitivity, and vomiting. Additionally. researchers also plan to measure the duration of symptom relief; whether its short-term or long-term.

Although this is a promising first step in establishing cannabis as a treatment for migraines, it is important to note that cannabis can also worsen symptoms and cause rebound headaches in some. Therefore, caution is advised when using cannabis for pain relief.

Source: University of California San Diego


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