Photo by Nick Fancher

Health | 03.14.2022

New Study Aims To Discover If Cannabis Can Reduce Migraines

Here's how the forthcoming trial will examine if cannabis could be a potential treatment for acute headaches and migraines.

What do you do to treat a headache? Perhaps swallow a couple of over-the-counter pain-relieving tablets, or maybe a relaxing toke might do the trick. However you go about treating your pains, researchers are calling for more evidence on how cannabis could mitigate headaches and migraines

There’s been scarce research on animals that show the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) directly interacts with neural pathways that cause migraines, meaning a substance that also interacts with our ECS might be of use for headaches. 

One researcher wants to solidify findings regarding how cannabis could aid migraines. Nathaniel Shuster is a headache and pain neurologist at UC San Diego Health and an investigator at the university’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. He spoke with Inverse about his recent efforts to find reliable evidence. 

“People with migraines sometimes ask doctors what their thoughts are about using cannabis to treat migraines,” and it’s been no surprise when doctors respond by explaining how they “don’t have clinical evidence to advise [patients],” Shuster explained. 

In better news, Shuster and other researchers are just about ready to make reliable findings in a new randomized placebo-controlled trial that looks at how cannabis could treat acute migraines. 

There are currently 75 participants ready to participate in the study, but Shuster explained that he’s looking to gather 15 more individuals to complete the trial. If all goes well, we should have the results by late summer. All participants in the trial must not be regular cannabis users or take opioids. 

Photo by Nick Fancher

What’s even more interesting is that the researchers won’t know which participants have taken which dose, which will be four different variations between THC, CBD, both THC + CBD, and a placebo. 

The participants will receive their dosage through an administered vaporizer, which reports say might be the least invasive method of ingestion for those with migraine-related nausea or stomach issues. 

Before Shuster’s team solidifies the findings, he wants marijuana users to know that “frequent cannabis use might actually make migraines become more frequent, causing what has been called medication overuse or rebound headaches.”

However, this isn’t a fact, just an assumption based on how medications and migraines have interacted in the past. That said, Shuster recommends that if individuals are not receiving care from a doctor and are suffering migraines, “four or more days per month…they should make an appointment with their doctor to discuss migraine prevention treatments.”

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