Studies report marijuana can reduce headache and migraine severity, but exact doses currently remain unknown.
Unless you experience a headache, and especially a migraine, you have no idea how disabling they can be. The throbbing pain, the nausea, the zap of all energy and, most of all, the constant pain, makes your life miserable. Science has yet to understand fully why they happen and the best way to treat them. So can marijuana help treat headaches?
In 2022, data was released from a study regarding helping suffered. Medical marijuana results in long-term reduction of migraine frequency in by 60% of treated patients and is associated with less disability and lower anti-migraine medication. Additionally, 94% of users experienced symptom relief within 2 hours of observation window. Males had greater relief than female.
Recent research indicates marijuana could become a new option for patients. A 2017 published review found, “headache disorders are common, debilitating, and, in many cases, inadequately managed by existing treatments.” Before cannabis was made illegal in the early 1900s, the review notes, notable physicians at the time praised using cannabis to treat headache disorders. Doses at the time were typically administered two to three times a day orally while trying to minimize intoxication.
The review added “it appears likely cannabis will emerge as a potential treatment for some headache sufferers.”
A 2019 study by Washington State University researchers provided some data around this potential treatment. Scientists used self-reported data via the Strainprint app to collect information on how patients were using cannabis to treat headaches and migraines. On average, participants reported inhaling marijuana caused headache severity to drop by 47%. Migraine sufferers said their pain severity decreased by almost half.
Marijuana use didn’t precipitate an “overuse headache,” in which over-the-counter medications cause headaches to worsen instead of improve. Researchers also found no significant difference in pain reduction depending on the type of marijuana participants smoked. Varying levels of THC and CBD had no significant effect, suggesting other properties or cannabinoids in the marijuana plant (there are more than 100 cannabinoids in cannabis) cause the pain reduction in patients.
In both cases, the studies noted more research is necessary before providing exact advice on using marijuana for headache treatment.
“My hope is this research will motivate researchers to take on the difficult work of conducting placebo-controlled trials,” Carrie Cutter, the 2019 study’s lead author, said in a statement. “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.”