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Cannabis for headaches: it may not be THC or CBD that reduces the pain

The idea that cannabis reduces pain is becoming more widely accepted – but does it reduce pain for headaches?

A new study has shown that the use of cannabis for headaches can be beneficial as it reduces headache and migraine pain by up to half. However, the study suggests that it is cannabinoids or other constituents like terpenes that play the central role in headache and migraine relief.

Inhaled cannabis reduces self-reported headache severity by 47.3% and migraine severity by 49.6%, according to a recent study led by Carrie Cuttler, a Washington State University assistant professor of psychology.

Cannabis for headaches and migraines

The study, published online recently in the Journal of Pain, is the first to use big data from headache and migraine patients using cannabis in real time.

Previous studies have asked patients to recall the effect of cannabis use in the past. There has been one clinical trial indicating that cannabis was better than ibuprofen in alleviating headache, but it used nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid drug.

Cuttler, the lead author on the paper, said: “We were motivated to do this study because a substantial number of people say they use cannabis for headache and migraine, but surprisingly few studies had addressed the topic.”

Cuttler said: “We wanted to approach this in an ecologically valid way, which is to look at actual patients using whole plant cannabis to medicate in their own homes and environments.

“These are also very big data, so we can more appropriately and accurately generalise to the greater population of patients using cannabis to manage these conditions.”

The study found a small gender difference with significantly more sessions involving headache reduction reported by men (90.0%) than by women (89.1%). The researchers also noted that cannabis concentrates, such as cannabis oil, produced a larger reduction in headache severity ratings than cannabis flower.

Cannabinoids or terpenes?

There was no significant difference in pain reduction among cannabis strains that were higher or lower in levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), two of the most commonly studied chemical constituents in cannabis, also known as cannabinoids.

Since cannabis is made up of over 100 cannabinoids, this finding suggests that different cannabinoids or other constituents like terpenes may play the central role in headache and migraine relief.

Cuttler said: “I suspect there are some slight overestimates of effectiveness. My hope is that this research will motivate researchers to take on the difficult work of conducting placebo-controlled trials.

“In the meantime, this at least gives medical cannabis patients and their doctors a little more information about what they might expect from using cannabis to manage these conditions.”

A new study has shown that the using cannabis for headaches may offer relief due to terpenes or other cannabinoids, rather than THC or CBD.

Medical Marijuana and CBD Oils for Migraines

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  • Marijuana for Migraine

Migraine headaches can be tough to treat. If your pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light or noise don’t get better with over-the-counter or even prescription drugs, is there another option?

Marijuana might be one under-the-counter remedy for migraine relief. Some research shows that it may help ease migraine symptoms or possibly keep them from starting. But most studies haven’t found solid proof of that.

And in some states, it isn’t legal to buy, grow, own, or use marijuana, even for medical reasons. Make sure you find out about your state’s laws before trying it.

How Does Pot Ease Pain?

Marijuana is another name for cannabis, a bushy plant that’s used to make paper, rope, and other products. В В В

Inside your brain and other parts of your body, you have a network of cannabinoid receptors. These are tiny loops of protein that affect how you feel pain.

Marijuana has natural compounds called cannabinoids. When you use it, these cannabinoids go into your body and look for the receptors. They change how the receptors work, and they can calm down pain signals.В В В

Cannabinoids may also help with nausea, anxiety, muscle spasms, or other health problems.В

THC is the cannabinoid in marijuana that gets most of the attention. It’s what makes you feel high or relaxed. But another product made from cannabis called cannabidiol (CBD) doesn’t make you feel intoxicated and may help ease pain. Several states have made it legal for CBD to be used for medical reasons.

Does It Work for Migraines?

There’s not a lot of research on this. In a study at the University of Colorado, 121 people who got regular migraine headaches used marijuana daily to prevent attacks. About 40% of them said the number of migraine headaches they got each month was cut in half.

The people used different types of marijuana, but they mostly inhaled it to ease a migraine in progress and found that it did help stop the pain. Edible products didn’t seem to work as well.

The people who inhaled or smoked marijuana also said it was easier to control the amount of the drug they took in, and they had fewer negative reactions.

Continued

What Are the Risks?

If you smoke or eat marijuana, it can make you feel dizzy, weak, confused, sleepy, or moody. And smoking it on a regular basis could harm your heart and lung health over time. Short-term use doesn’t seem to be bad for your general health.

Legal Issues

Marijuana is legal for medical use in more than half the states in the U.S. But each state has different laws about how you can buy it or how much you can have. In several states, it’s still illegal to have it even if you have a medical problem that it could treat.

If you have a job, it’s a good idea to know your employer’s rules around drug testing and use, even if it’s legal for medical use in your state. Tests can tell if you have marijuana in your system. And it can stay there up to 30 days after you’ve used it.

Sources

National Headache Foundation: “Migraine.”

Baron, EP. Headache. June 2015.

University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health: “Medical Marijuana for the Treatment of Migraine Headaches: An Evidence Review.”

National Conference of State Legislatures: “State Medical Marijuana Laws.”

Manzanares, J. Current Neuropharmacology. July 2006.

Benbadis, S. Expert Reviews of Neurotherapeutics. Published online Nov. 2014.

Project CBD.org: “What Is CBD?”

Rhyne, D. Pharmacotherapy. Jan. 2016.

Americans for Safe Access: “Guide to Using Medical Cannabis.”

Degenhardt, L and Hall, WD. Canadian Medical Association Journal. June 2008.

National Association of Attorneys General: “The Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Employment Law.”

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol.”

State of Oregon: “Frequently Asked Questions About Marijuana in the Workplace.”

Can marijuana help treat or prevent migraines? WebMD explores how pot works for headache pain and the possible side effects.