The short answer to this question is yes, under the right circumstances. If you live in Massachusetts and suffer from severe chronic headaches, you may be eligible for treatment with Cannabis, which studies have shown can greatly reduce the frequency of headaches and migraines. If chronic migraines are having a negative effect on your life, and prescription or over-the-counter medications are failing to provide relief, you should talk to your physician about becoming a registered medical marijuana patient in Massachusetts.
Study Shows Using Marijuana Reduces Frequency of Migraines
The state of Massachusetts legalized medical Cannabis in 2012 and permits physicians to recommend Cannabis for patients who have been diagnosed with a wide range of serious health conditions, a subject I covered in my article on how to qualify for medical marijuana in Massachusetts. If you meet the eligibility criteria, and your doctor determines that the health benefits of using marijuana would be more significant than the potential drawbacks, Cannabis might be a great therapy for you.
But why should chronic migraine sufferers consider using Cannabis in the first place?
When evaluating the efficacy of marijuana – or any treatment method – it’s always a good idea to investigate the data revealed by peer-reviewed medical research. While there isn’t much research on Cannabis for headache-specific pain relief, one study – the first and only of its kind – indicates that medical marijuana may reduce the number of migraines that patients experience.
The study, which was published earlier this year in Pharmacotherapy, evaluated 121 adult patients who were diagnosed with migraine headaches between 2010 and 2014. Its goal was to determine whether using marijuana had any effect on how often patients suffered migraines.
The study found that Cannabis use dramatically lowered the number of migraines participants reported experiencing, with headache frequency dropping by more than 50% (decreasing from about 10 per month to about five per month). Marijuana use resulted in “positive effects” for about 40% of the patients (48 out of 121 people), including migraine prevention and reductions to migraine frequency (reported by 24 patients), and the ability to stop migraines that had already started (reported by 14 patients).
By comparison, only 14 patients experienced “negative effects,” which were extremely mild: two patients felt sleepy, and two patients had trouble controlling their dose. Interestingly, the two patients who had dosage issues both ate edibles instead of smoking, vaporizing, or using other routes of administration, which is an excellent real-life example of the exact reason I typically recommend against edibles in favor of other, more easily controlled methods of using marijuana. (And not only is proper dosage tough to manage – Cannabis edibles are unhealthy from a nutritional standpoint, too.)
Why Does Cannabis Relieve Pain Caused by Headaches?
These findings are good news for migraine sufferers – but why does Cannabis appear to help with migraine pain, anyway? As a study published last year in Headache explained, Cannabinoids – the chemical compounds responsible for marijuana’s wide range of effects (mind-altering and not) effects, such as THC and CBD – “appear to modulate and interact at many pathways inherent to migraine, triptan mechanisms of action, and opiate pathways.”
“Triptan” is the key word here. Triptan drugs, which are based on a chemical compound called tryptamine, have been widely prescribed to treat migraines and cluster headaches since they were first introduced during the nineties. Alsuma, Axert, Frova, Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, and many other migraine medications are all classified as triptans. (If you look up the real names of any of these substances, you’ll see that they all end with the suffix “-triptan,” – for example, Frova is really called frovatriptan.)
Migraines are poorly understood and can have different triggers in different individuals. Current theories and understanding are widely divergent, so it’s not surprising that it remains unclear precisely why Cannabis appears to reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. For now, however, there’s no questioning the fact that existing studies demonstrate the efficacy of medical marijuana in managing chronic migraines. It’s also worth noting that, in addition to relieving pain, Cannabis can also help to alleviate other migraine symptoms like vomiting and muscle cramping.
Have Chronic Headaches? Call a Cambridge Medical Marijuana Doctor
If you or one of your family members suffers frequent, debilitating headaches or migraines, you should ask your doctor about a Cannabis prescription. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to call Inhale MD at (617) 477-8886 to set up a confidential consultation.