Studies indicate that cannabis shows promise as therapeutically beneficial for headaches, according to a new research review.
A new research review examining the clinical and preclinical findings on the use of cannabis for headache concludes that cannabis could emerge as a treatment method. The study, headed by Dr. Igor Grant, the director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego, will be published in the April issue of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.
“Early reports of cannabis for the treatment of headache appear to be largely positive, with many patients experiencing a decrease in the frequency and intensity of their headache episodes,” said Grant and his team of researchers, in the study. “In some cases, headache was cured entirely even after cannabis discontinuation. Furthermore, these early clinical reports praise the apparent safety of long-term cannabis use, as well as its added benefits of mollifying the nausea and anxiety that often accompany headaches.”
Cannabis has been used in the treatment efforts for migraines and other headache disorders for centuries. Between 1874 and 1942, before marijuana was prohibited in the United States, it was the most prominently used substance to treat headaches by physicians.
The study notes that previous findings support the theory that a deficit in endocannabinoids or dysfunction with the endocannabinoid system could be associated with the development of headaches and migraine. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating several functions, including immune system function, mood, sleep, and pain response. Cannabinoids found in cannabis, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), interact with the endocannabinoid system’s receptors, particularly CB1, to inhibit the inflammation that causes migraine pain.
The researchers add that clinical trials examining cannabis on headaches are lacking because of the legislative obstacles that make conducting double-blind placebo-controlled trials difficult. They recommend to other researchers that future studies focus on developing dosing and treatment guidelines for cannabis in the treatment of headaches, investigating the potential efficacy of CBD for headaches, identifying variables that could predict headache treatment receptivity, examining long-term risks of cannabis treatments for headaches, and evaluating whether cannabis could be used in conjunction with traditional headache treatments or as a treatment for patients whose headaches have proven refractory to traditional medications.
“Although there have not been any clinical trials of cannabis as a treatment for headache to date, reports indicate that cannabis is commonly used by patients to self-medicate for headache disorders. A retrospective analysis has shown a significant impact of cannabis in treating migraine and a clinical trial of a synthetic cannabinoid showed efficacy for [medication-overuse headache], but properly designed placebo-controlled trials are needed to determine the true efficacy and complications of cannabis treatment for headache disorders,” the study concludes.
Today, 28 states allow marijuana for medical purposes, and nearly all have specifically approved cannabis for migraine or pain.
You can read the entire study, “The Use of Cannabis for Headache Disorders,” via Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.
Learn more about what research has found on cannabis’ potential therapeutic role for headache relief by visiting our education page.