Medical Marijuana and Migraine Headaches
Long gone are the days when mentioning the word marijuana would either excite or alarm people. Once chemical analysis and clinical trials started on the herb it definitely killed the hippy vibe. Now there is increasing interest in the medicinal use of Cannabis sativa across the globe and a drive to legalize marijuana for palliative care throughout the US.
The evidence is building that marijuana should be viewed no differently than any other pharmaceutical ingredient. Especially when we consider how many other plants are used in prescription drugs that we’re happy to take without question. And if you suffer from migraines, you’ve probably tried a truck-load of remedies to lessen the alarming and debilitating symptoms of your headache.
What Is A Migraine Headache?
Migraines are more than just a slight ache at the temple or a bit of pain at the base of the skull. They’re not the kind of stress headaches you might get from doing too many reps at the gym or having an in-box that doesn’t even seem to reduce in size. Although stress and over-doing things could undoubtedly bring on a migraine.
At its most basic, migraines are often described as moderate to severe headaches felt as a throbbing pain radiating from one side of the head. The pain is usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting, or extreme sensitivity to bright light and loud sounds.
However, text books can’t always describe the reality of migraine headaches and the variety of symptoms that sufferers can experience.
What are the symptoms?
Migraine headache sufferers sometimes receive or come to recognize ‘early -warning’ signs of the onset of a migraine. These can be prodromal (pre-headache) symptoms such as changes in mood, appetite or energy levels that can last from several hours to many days before a migraine attack.
Migraine with aura
Some of these prodromal signs are called aura. Aura are optical and physical symptoms of migraine that are often seen as flashing lights or distorted vision, much like you might get on a TV set when the signal is interrupted.
More disconcerting are aura symptoms such as numbness or pins and needles that starts in the hand, moves up the arm and into the face, and can affect speech. Some suffers report feeling dizzy or having their balance affected. In extreme cases loss of consciousness can occur.
Migraine without aura
Unfortunately, most migraines strike without warning. While symptoms can sometimes be mild they can also leave sufferers in the unenviable position of having to go home from work unexpectedly or having to cancel plans with family and friends at the last minute. It’s a sadly misunderstood condition and can be both upsetting for the sufferer and those that care for them.
What triggers a migraine?
A neurologist from the Florida Medical Center, says that triggers can vary hugely but that some common causes may relate to changes in the weather, reactions to certain foods, or menstruation.
Who can get migraines?
Sadly for women, migraines appear to be gender biased – more women than men suffer with migraines and is why migraines are linked with hormonal changes. Figures show that 1 in every 5 women suffer from migraines and 1 in every 15 men.
Migraines can run in families. The onset of migraines can begin anytime from the 20s to the 40s but can also be start in later life as a result of neurological trauma.
The experience migraine sufferers have to go through is bad enough, but what makes it worse is there is as yet no cure. To add insult to injury, people with migraines often have to experiment with treatments to find out which works to reduce symptoms. And even after this process, some suffers are not able to find treatments that reduce symptoms enough for them to carry on their normal lives during an attack.
However, chemical analyses and clinical trials of medical marijuana is offering some hope to sufferers of migraine headaches.
What is Medical Marijuana?
The term used for the elements of the Cannabis sativa plant that can be extracted to ease symptoms of medical conditions is: medical marijuana. It is also known as medical cannabis. It can come in many forms, such as a pill, liquid, powder, dried leaves, or oil.
The compounds form Cannabis sativa that are most well-known are THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). CBD derived from the plant is legal under US federal law while THC is legal in many states for medical use, including Florida.
Many states require those using THC-based products to carry medical marijuana cards that would be provided by a licensed doctor. There are already multiple licensed practices in Florida (over 20 in the capitol alone) where medical marijuana doctors carry out their practices.
In 2021, Florida opened its sixth marijuana laboratory to test the medicinal topical use of Cannabis sativa. The facility’s president, Rob Radke, states that the labs aims are to place “Product safety and transparency” at the heart of their research.
Many labs across the country are deepening their research into diseases where existing results for the use of medical marijuana are already good, such as for Alzheimer’s and Crohn’s diseases, as well as Epilepsy, and Glaucoma, among others. Scientists are conducting further tests on the extent to which medical marijuana can act as palliative medicine for cancer or neurodegenerative patients. Of course many labs are experimenting with cannabis to find out to what extent the use of marijuana or its derivatives can help prevent disease rather than merely reduce symptoms or act as pain relief.
Can Medical Marijuana Treat Symptoms of Migraines?
If you suffer from migraine headaches or know someone who does then you may be desperate to know if medical marijuana can be used to treat its symptoms.
The short answer is: it’s looking good. Many migraine suffers have already come to rely on medical marijuana to treat symptoms just through word of mouth.
However, if you’re looking for evidence that’s a little more concrete, let’s look at some key scientific results: A 2019 study by Washington State University on the use of medical marijuana for headache and migraine treatment discovered that patients who inhaled cannabis reported a 47.3% reduction in headache severity and a 49.6% reduction in migraine severity.
In terms of pain reduction the results of this report are impressive with 90% of men and 89.1% of women reporting a reduction in the resultant pain felt during a migraine attack.
States that sufferers reported that cannabis treatments worked better than other prescribed medication in symptom relief. And if we needed more proof, the same study also showed that many sufferers were already taking medical marijuana to help reduce symptoms. Of course, like any medicine, you should always seek advice from your medical practitioner. Or if you’d like further information about its suitability for you, it may be a good idea to contact a medical marijuana doctor or a licensed practice directly. Don’t forget, too, that you will need to carry a medical marijuana card in Florida if you intend to use a THC-based product.
Surely one of the more convincing ways to see if a treatment works in real life is to check how many of its sufferers already advocate its use. And increasing reports show that a high percentage of sufferers are giving medical marijuana a very definite thumbs-up.