Obviously, migraines are terrible. They are also almost unbelievably prevalent. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world – with women making up around 85% of chronic migraine sufferers.
The reality is, if you don’t suffer from them yourself, you almost certainly know someone who does.
With so many people living with this kind of pain, you might assume that treatments are plentiful (and helpful). But you would be wrong. On the contrary, migraine is a poorly understood disease that is often undiagnosed, undertreated, and certainly underresearched.
A new study, though, has found that, as medical cannabis continues its march of legalization across the country, migraineurs are finding that cannabis can decrease the intensity of migraine attacks.
Conducted by Healint, a healthcare technology provider, the study analyzed data that they gathered from their migraine tracking app, Migraine Buddy.
Close to ten thousand Migraine Buddy users in the US and Canada participated in Healint’s research, allowing the company to get a pretty accurate measure of medical marijuana use among migraine patients – and its effectiveness as a migraine treatment.
The data reveals that many North Americans are already using cannabis as a form of pain relief. And of the 30 percent of migraine patients in the US that have used cannabis to relieve migraine pain, around 82 percent of those who used cannabis found that it reduced the pain level. (The study showed no indication of a preferred method of delivery or dosage.)
Research about the benefits of cannabis for migraine patients is slowly emerging, but more studies are needed to move cannabis into the mainstream of migraine treatment.
The results of the Healint study back up a previous study released in late 2019, which found that inhaled cannabis may significantly reduce the intensity of headaches and migraines. That study, conducted by Washington State University, was based on information submitted by more than 1,300 patients. Again, no dosage information was reported as part of that study.
Further back, a clinical trial performed in 2017 showed that a daily combination of 200mg THC and CBD could perform better than the drug amitriptyline, a standard headache treatment.
“Cannabis is becoming a prominent treatment option for chronic pain patients, especially for migraineurs,” said Healint CEO and co-founder Francois Cadiou. “With more and more states across the United States legalizing medical marijuana, migraine patients are becoming acquainted with cannabis as a natural remedy that can help alleviate migraines and even prevent them.
Dr. Andrew Rizzo, an Emergency Medicine physician with a specialty in Addiction Medicine in Brooklyn, NY concurs: “As more research is conducted on the effects of cannabis on headache and migraine, cannabis is proving to be an effective medication that can help migraineurs better manage their condition.
But as is often the case with cannabis, the informal experimentation is way ahead of the science, and studies like Healint’s, while helpful, are really just the tip of the research iceberg. According to Rizzo:
“While the increase in research looking at the correlation between cannabis use and migraine frequency is a positive sign, we urgently need more studies to be conducted on the proper administration method and dosage to better inform our patients.”
Apart from the 2017 clinical trial, these largescale, self-reporting studies just don’t give doctors – or patients – enough information to move cannabis into the mainstream of migraine treatment (yet). For example, what is the best method of delivery? How much of each cannabinoid is best? Is there an optimal ratio of THC to CBD? These are just a few of the many questions that are yet to be answered.
But the pain won’t wait for dosage information, and Healint’s study shows that migraine sufferers are already taking research into their own hands.