Medical Marijuana Reduces Migraine Frequency In New Study

Medical marijuana may reduce the frequency of migraine headaches, according to data from a new study.

In a study that looked at 121 people who had previously received a primary diagnosis of migraine headache, 103 of them reported fewer migraines after using medical marijuana. Of the remainder, 15 reported that their migraine frequency and duration remained unchanged, and three experienced an increase in migraine headaches.

The data was also broken down further. According to the study, 40 percent of the patients reported a decrease in migraine frequency, while 12 percent said that their migraines stopped altogether after starting a medical cannabis prescription.

On average, patients whose data was used in the study experienced about 10 headaches each month prior to receiving a prescription for medical marijuana. After taking medical marijuana, the average number of headaches in the group was reduced to 4.6 per month.

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Medical and recreational marijuana are both legal in Colorado, but this new study focused on medical cannabis. [AP Photo/David Zalubowski]

Patients in the study used medical cannabis for both treatment of migraines and as prophylaxis. Most of the patients used the medical marijuana on a daily basis to prevent migraines, but 11.6 percent reported that they were able to successfully abort migraine headaches by smoking or consuming edibles after the onset of a headache.

Most of the patients in the study preferred smoking marijuana to consuming edibles, according to the data. Smoking was also more commonly used to treat migraines after the onset of a headache, while edibles were consumed more often as a preventative measure.

Although most of the patients from the study reported some improvement in their migraines, there were also a number of adverse side effects reported. In addition to the three patients who reported an increased number of headache days each month, other patients reported side effects like drowsiness and difficulty in determining dosages to achieve the desired effect.

According to the abstract available from PubMed, dose issues were only experienced by patients who opted for prescription edibles.

“There was a substantial improvement for patients in their ability to function and feel better,” Professor Laura Borgelt, senior author of the medical marijuana study, said in a release. “Like any drug, marijuana has potential benefits and potential risks. It’s important for people to be aware that using medical marijuana can also have adverse effects.”

The exact mechanism by which medical marijuana might reduce migraine frequency, or even abort existing migraine headaches, is unknown. However, Borgelt suggests that it may have something to do with the way that cannabinoids affect serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

“We believe serotonin plays a role in migraine headaches, but we are still working to discover the exact role of cannabinoids in this condition.”

The study, which was carried out at the University of Colorado, was a retrospective chart review and the researchers did not directly interact with patients. Instead, they looked at the medical records of patients from two medical marijuana specialty clinics in Colorado, according to an abstract available from PubMed.

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The new medical marijuana migraine study didn't involve a clinical trial, which would require standardized dosages and potencies. [AP Photo/Jennifer Peltz]

Study author Laura Borgelt said, via release, that the results of the study were remarkable, but suggested that clinical trials are required to learn more about the interaction between migraines and marijuana.

According to Borgelt, an ideal clinical trial would be randomized and placebo-controlled, with a marijuana washout period prior to patients participating. Such a trial would also require standardized quantities and potencies, which is something that patients from the new study had problems with, particularly in regards to edibles.

At the same time that this study suggests medical marijuana may be an effective treatment for migraines, medical cannabis is also in the news as a potential treatment for epilepsy. Generally, medical marijuana remains a controversial subject. Several cities in California are seeking to ban medical marijuana, as Inquisitr recently reported, and other jurisdictions around the country have hit roadblocks.

Would you consider trying medical marijuana to treat your migraines, or would you rather stick with traditional medications?

[Photo by Edyta Pawlowska/Shutterstock]