There is a rapid rise in the use of cannabis for migraines these days. Weed has always been used for its relaxing and analgesic properties, so it won’t be an overuse to say that we’re getting back to our roots. And if you ask me, it’s no wonder people are turning to cannabis for its health benefits instead of popping pills for migraines that only mask the symptoms of this condition.
In this article, I will explain the mechanism behind using cannabis for migraine relief. I’ve broken it down to several sections so that you don’t feel overwhelmed with too much information at a time. I will shed light on the medical effects of marijuana, dosage guidelines and how to use cannabis for migraine relief.
But first, let’s make one thing clear once and for all…
There is No Equation Mark Between Even A Strong Headache and Migraines
People often tend to diminish the seriousness of migraines. I mean, how many times have you heard someone whining about having migraines and that person was still able to function normally among others?
The sad truth is, my dear friends, you can’t compare even a strong headache with migraines. Migraine pain is a crippling sensation that pulses in a specific spot on the head. The pain is so debilitating that it often causes nausea, vomiting, and irritation to the external stimuli.
Migraines are a global problem, affecting a large portion of our population and involving three times more women than men according to NIH (National Institute of Health). This is why it drives me crazy when I hear some women using the term “migraine” just to excuse their mood swings and their overall bad-day attitude.
Migraines can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, making a person unable to perform even simplest activities, which only amplify the symptoms. Simply put, when you suffer from a migraine attack, you’re going to be ‘out of order’ until it stops.
While the exact reason for migraines still remains unknown, what we do know is that they are often onset by various triggers, such as hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, and other factors. Some migraine sufferers will tell you they can feel the attack coming by seeing an “aura.” Before migraines kick in, a person can experience a shattered vision, see zig-zag lines, and become extremely sensitive to sensory stimuli.
Conventional Treatment: Efficacy and Dangers
When it comes to fighting or preventing migraines, doctors usually recommend over-the-counter painkillers like Excedrin, which is a combination of caffeine, aspirin, and acetaminophen. Despite being relatively safe in low doses, they come with a range of dangerous side effects when taken daily. These include ulcers, heart attack, stroke, or kidney damage.
Chronic migraine sufferers are often given prescription drugs, such as Treximet or Imitrex. These drugs constrict blood vessels in the brain and boost serotonin levels, which brings effective pain relief. However, they are also known to trigger tightness in the chest, nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness.
The last and the most dangerous option is to take morphine-based drugs or Oxytocin. Despite being strong painkillers, they have a well-documented records of side effects like birth defects in pregnant women, stroke, heart attacks, or the development of toxicosis if a person takes them with antifungal drugs or antibiotics. Besides, the fact that opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled over the last 20 years should speak for itself.
Scientific Research on Cannabis for Migraine Relief
Although there isn’t much research on cannabis for migraine relief, I’ve found studies that have suggested marijuana may help combat all forms of chronic and acute pain. Yes, you’re right, migraines fall under this category.
Let’s start with a 2016 study published in Pharmacotherapy. The study analyzed the use of medical cannabis for migraine relief. Of 48 people examined, 40 percent reported fewer migraine attacks in general. They also stated that the pain relief from marijuana was lasting much longer. The only side effect reported was drowsiness, which can be attributed to difficulties with figuring out the proper dose.
Another study, published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, investigated the analgesic effects of oral cannabis. 26 participants took cannabis with ibuprofen or nabilone to treat migraines caused by medication overuse. Each combination was applied for eight weeks at a time, with an 8-week break in between the the two mixtures. The cannabis-nabilone combination was more effective, but it’s worth noting that the researchers assessed the mixture of drugs used, not marijuana alone.
Finally, there is a study from 2017 that showed cannabis is a safer and more effective option than prescription drugs for migraine relief. Participants of the study were administered a combination of CBD and THC for migraines every day for three months. As it turned out, the subjects experienced a 55 percent decline in pain. Also, pain relief was again longer-lasting and more effective than typically prescribed analgesics. It goes without saying that the participants reported fewer side effects as well.
How to Use Cannabis for Migraine Relief?
If you want to use cannabis for migraine relief, I suggest that you either try it orally or by vaping.
Oral cannabis takes some time to kick in, but the effects are longer-lasting than with a vaporizer. As for the oral application, this form of cannabis comes in edibles, oil tinctures or capsules. Depending on the effect you want to achieve with cannabis for migraine relief, you can choose between THC and CBD oil. These two products differ in terms of the THC/CBD ratio. Generally, if you’re looking for pain relief without getting high, you will probably opt for the CBD oil. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind that buzz from THC, it should help you with migraines, too.
For faster delivery of cannabinoids to your system, I recommend vaping. Because the vapor from a vaporizer gets directly to your bloodstream, the effects are almost immediate and concentrated on CB1 and CB2 receptors in the nervous system. The only downside of vaping is throat and lung irritation in chronic users, as well as the duration of the effects, which is shorter than in the case of edibles.
Potential Side Effects
When it comes to side effects of using cannabis for migraine relief, there are no serious side effects that could pose threat to one’s health. Still, some side effects do exist and these are as follows:
- Dry mouth
- Red eyes (this is actually a positive side effects)
- Munchies (you are the judge here)
- Dizziness or drowsiness in high doses
- Anxiety (again, in large doses)
Of course, if you’re a heavy cannabis user, you will develop tolerance to THC over time, as well as something called “cannabis use disorder” if you’re prone to abusing substances – but this is not a matter of weed because you can literally get addicted to anything. Music, sex, food, religion – you name it. Even if knocking yourself on the forehead can get you addicted if you take pleasure from it.
The bottom line, my fellow migraine sufferers, is that moderation is key, as with everything in life.
Have you tried cannabis for migraine relief? Does it work for you?