Can Cannabis Cure Migraines?

A recent study published in the Journal of Pain found that patients may potentially be able to reduce headache and migraine pain by half.

We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.

The study was led by an assistant professor of Psychology at Washington State University, Carrie Cuttler, and found that patients self-reported headache severity decreased by 47.3%, while migraines declined by 49.6%.

The WSU study is the first of its kind to use big data from headache and migraine patients for cannabis treatment in real time. The research was carried out by analysts who studied archival data from the Strainprint app, which is used by patients to track symptoms associated with medical cannabis purchased.

"We were motivated to do this study because a substantial number of people say they use cannabis for headache and migraine, but surprisingly few studies had addressed the topic," head researcher Carrie Cuttler said.

"We wanted to approach this in an ecologically valid way, which is to look at actual patients using whole plant cannabis to medicate in their own homes and environments."

"These are also very big data, so we can more appropriately and accurately generalize to the greater population of patients using cannabis to manage these conditions."

The data generated by Strainprint tracked more than 1,300 patients, using the app more than 12,200 times. Changes in headache severity from before to after cannabis use were the monitored. Additionally, another 653 migraine sufferers also used the app to record more than 7,400 data points.

According to Cuttler, her team also found no vidence that cannabis causes "overuse headache", which is huge news, as many conventional treatments can have this effect, making patients' headaches progressively worse as time goes on.

The study observed a slight gender split in the data recorded, which saw men report a 90.0% reduction in headache severity, compared to women who only experience 89.1%.

Researchers also observed that patients experienced a greater reduction in headache symptoms when using concentrate products—such as cannabis oil—rather than traditional dried flower.

However, the study observed no appreciable difference in pain reduction when comparing strains with higher and lower levels of THC and CBD. Although more research is needed, head researcher Carrie Cutler believes this may indicate that other molecules within the cannabis plant may play a central role in the headache reduction mechanism.

"I suspect there are some slight overestimates of effectiveness," Cuttler said.

"My hope is that this research will motivate researchers to take on the difficult work of conducting placebo-controlled trials."

"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."

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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