Can marijuana help treat or prevent migraines? WebMD explores how pot works for headache pain and the possible side effects. Data from a clinically validated survey showed that 86% of respondents reported a decrease in headache impact after using a cannabidiol (CBD) formulation for a 30-day trial period.
Medical Marijuana and CBD Oils for Migraines
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.
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 may calm down pain signals.
Cannabinoids may also help with nausea, anxiety, muscle spasms, or other health problems.
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 some 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.
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. Regular use could also lead to addiction and other problems. Short-term use doesn’t seem to be bad for your general health.
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.
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.”
Study Finds CBD Is An Effective Treatment For Migraine
An overwhelming majority of migraine sufferers found relief with the use of CBD oil, according to the results of a recent study. Data from a clinically validated survey showed that 86% of respondents reported a decrease in headache impact after using a cannabidiol (CBD) formulation for a 30-day trial period.
The survey was taken by customers using a CBD oil product designed by Axon Relief, a company that creates supplements specifically for migraine sufferers. Known as the Headache Impact Test (Hit-6), the clinically validated survey measures the impact that headaches have on a respondent’s daily life and ability to function.
As many as 39 million Americans experience migraine.
Data On CBD And Migraine Lacking
Although some research has shown that migraine sufferers report more relief from cannabis than they do from prescription medications, clinical studies that focus specifically on the effect that CBD can have on migraine are yet to be conducted. However, a 2018 study found that CBD, a non-intoxicating constituent of cannabis, has several pharmacological properties including acting as an anti-inflammatory, and anecdotal accounts of CBD oil successfully being used for migraine show promise.
“Our goal is to explore if our CBD isolate can help people who suffer from chronic headaches, like migraine. The results of the survey are promising,” Ben Rollins, the founder of Axon Relief, said in a press release.
Participants completed the Hit-6 survey both before and after using the CBD oil. During the 30-day trial period, respondents experienced an average of 3.8 fewer headache days than before using Axon’s CBD oil, a reduction of 23%. Chronic migraine sufferers, defined as people who experience 15 to 29 headache days over a 30-day period, saw a 33% reduction in their headache days.
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One Billion Migraine Sufferers Worldwide
Migraine is one of the world’s most prevalent neurological diseases, according to information from the Migraine Research Foundation, affecting approximately 39 million people in the U.S. and about one billion globally. Symptoms, which are often disabling, can include severe headache, dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances and severe sensitivity to light or sound. Migraine disease is commonly treated with strong pharmaceutical drugs, although with varying results.
“Since the ’90s I’ve been on constant high doses of carbamazepine and gabapentin. The periodic pain breakthroughs were only controlled by hydrocodone, which always made me feel. uncomfortable,” wrote Glen, a participant in Axon’s informal study. “What a change CBD oil has made: no more carbamazepine or hydrocodone, and only half the gabapentin—and far better pain control. Pain breakthroughs still happen, but another squirt of Axon CBD, and the pain is gone within 15 minutes. I have no side effects.”
The Axon CBD oil used in the migraine study.
Photo courtesy of Axon Relief
Another participant in the study said that the CBD formulation “has significantly helped with my chronic migraines. If taken at onset, I can rely on it to take the edge off relatively quickly.”
Of the 105 people who participated in the trial for Axon, 15 reported that they were experiencing daily headaches at the beginning of the study. By the end of the 30-day trial period, the number had dropped to 10, a reduction of 33%.
More Research Necessary
Although Axon’s study was conducted without the scientific rigor of gold-standard clinical trials, the results of the Hit-6 survey underscore the need for more research into CBD as a possible treatment for migraine sufferers around the world.
“While there is an abundance of anecdotal accounts of people using CBD oil with good results for migraine, there is very little in the way of standardized results,” the company wrote.