Marijuana Treats Migraine Pain Better Than Prescription Medication


In another win for marijuana research, a study has found that the active compounds in cannabis are more effective at reducing the frequency of acute migraine pain than prescription migraine meds, and with fewer side effects.

The study included a total of 127 participants who suffered from chronic migraines and cluster headaches, severe headaches that occur on one side of the head, often around an eye. Migraine pain usually affects both sides of the head and is often accompanied by light sensitivity and nausea.

The cannabis-based medication the researchers gave the participants was a combination of the two active compounds in marijuana: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive compound that gets pot users high; CBD doesn’t get you high, but research has shown that it provides therapeutic benefits, including relieving seizures in epileptic patients.

The study had two phases. In the first, sufferers of chronic, acute migraines were given varying doses of the THC-CBD drug. The results showed that those who received a 200mg dose each day for three months experienced significantly less pain--about 55% less (lower doses didn’t provide the same pain relief).

The second phase of the study included both those suffering from chronic migraines and those suffering from cluster headaches. Migraine sufferers were given either the THC-CBD drug or 25 milligrams of amitriptyline, an antidepressant medication often used to treat migraines. The cluster headache sufferers were given either the THC-CBD drug or 80 milligrams of verapamil, a calcium channel blocker med often prescribed for cluster headaches.

The results showed that THC-CBD was slightly better at reducing the frequency of migraine attacks than the commonly prescribed med (40.4 % versus 40.1%, respectively). And the THC-CBD drug was very effective at reducing migraine pain, cutting it by 43.5%.

The drug was also effective at reducing the severity of pain in cluster headache sufferers, but only if they had a history of migraines from childhood on.
The side-effect profile was also generally better than the common meds. People taking THC-CBD reported fewer stomach aches and muscle pains, and fewer incidences of colitis than those taking the prescription med. On the downside, those taking THC-CBD reported some drowsiness and difficulty concentrating.

The study reinforces earlier research showing that medical marijuana is effective at reducing the frequency of migraines, and it adds to a chorus of research findings pointing to marijuana compounds as less risky alternatives to prescription pain meds. A number of clinical trials are underway to determine whether drugs made from the compounds could supplant opioids as a go-to painkiller, and thereby lessen the burden of opioid addiction. Those trials will take some time, but it’s encouraging that research is moving steadily in the direction of discovering the therapeutic potential of marijuana compounds. With potentially enormous upsides, like reducing how many people are hooked on opioids, it's imperative that the research continues.

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