Latest Research Finds Headache and Migraine Pain Reduced by Half After Inhaling Cannabis

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By Melissa Hutsell

Research published this month in The Journal of Pain finds that inhaling cannabis decreases headache and migraine pain by up to 50% in sufferers. 

The study was conducted by Carry Cutler, assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University (WSU). Cutler said she was motivated to study the link between headaches, migraines, and cannabis usage because—despite the significant amount of people who use the plant to ease head pain—there is little research on the topic. 

In fact, approximately “36% of medical cannabis users reported using cannabis to treat [a] headache/migraine,” according to the study. To date, however, there is only one study that previously looked into the effects of cannabinoids on head pain. That study examined the synthetic cannabinoid, nabilone, and found it to be “more effective than ibuprofen in reducing pain intensity, reducing intake of other analgesics, and increasing quality of life.”

To further investigate the efficacy, WSU researchers used data from the Strainprint, an app that allows Canadian medical consumers to track strains, and the symptoms they experience after use. 

Data was collected from 1,876 patients over a 16-month period; more than 1,300 of which tracked changes in their headache before to after cannabis use, “and another 653 who used the app more than 7,400 times to track changes in migraine severity,” reports WSU Insider

Result showed that headache severity decreased by 47.3% while migraine severity dropped by 49.6%. 

Though researchers found concentrates to be more effective at easing head pain than flower, there was no significant difference in pain reduction between different strains, which points toward the importance of terpenes and other plant molecules in headache/migraine relief. 

Researchers also found there to be no overuse headaches from cannabis, which is notable because over-using certain medications can make headaches/migraines worse for many sufferers. However, the study did find that users consumed more cannabis overtime, suggesting tolerance build-ups. 

Another interesting finding: men (90%) are more likely to experience a reduction in headache severity after smoking cannabis than females (89%). 

More research is needed, said Cutler. In the meantime, she told WSU Insider, the study does provide insight for both doctors and patients.

Emerald contributor since February 2016

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