Lots of people consume cannabis to relieve headaches and migraines. But researches have hardly studied cannabinoids as a therapeutic treatment for these common ailments. That’s where this new study comes in. Researchers aimed to analyze the short and long-term effects of cannabis on headaches and migraines using data from nearly 20,000 sessions where people inhaled cannabis to relieve their symptoms. And what they found were significant reductions in headache and migraine ratings after cannabis use.
Specifically, researchers concluded that inhaling cannabis cut headache and migraine severity in half. But they also noticed different trends among women and men and a pattern of tolerance that changed cannabis’ effectiveness over time.
The new study on cannabis as a migraine and headache treatment is backing up thousands of years of human experience, including recent trends in medical cannabis use. According to recent reports, more than a third of medical cannabis users reported using cannabis to treat headaches and migraines. And on average, those patients report an average 3.6-point decrease (out of 10) in headache severity after inhaling cannabis.
Concentrates Relieve Headaches Better Than Flower
Furthermore, another study found that 40 percent of patients who received a medical cannabis recommendation for headaches reported a positive effect. For those patients, headaches and migraines weren’t just less severe, they also experienced roughly 6 fewer migraines a month. In fact, people have found cannabis so effective at reducing the severity and frequency of headaches and migraines that they’re using significantly less migraine medications.
Cannabis pain-relieving capabilities is something researchers are studying very closely. One recent study found that compounds in cannabis called flavonoids are thirty times more effective than aspirin and ibuprofen for pain. Cannabis can reduce pain intensity better than the most common over-the-counter pain relievers, reduce the use of these drugs and increase quality of life.
So what did this new study add to what we already know about cannabis and pain relief? Researchers sought to figure out not just whether inhaled cannabis decreased headache and migraine severity. They also wanted to understand how things like the type of cannabis, THC, CBD and dose impacted changes in headache severity and frequency.
Overall, researchers found that headache and migraine ratings were reduced by nearly 50 percent after inhaling cannabis. But they noticed a couple of other important things about cannabis as a headache and migraine treatment, too.
First, researchers concluded that while inhaling flower produced significant reductions in headache ratings, consumption of concentrates was associated with “significantly larger” reductions in these ratings. It’s a novel finding that researches say presents an urgent call for further study.
Tolerance Can Diminish Effectiveness Over Time
Given that concentrates produced a better result for migraine and headache patients, one might think dose or potency made the difference. But researchers say that things like dose, potency, strain type and THC to CBD ratios didn’t really make any difference when it came to reducing the severity of headaches and migraines. In other words, any kind of cannabis will do when it comes to treating headaches, and researchers don’t know why concentrates produced better results than flower.
One thing that did affect cannabis’ effectiveness, however, was time. The study found that for regular and frequent consumers, a tolerance to the effects of cannabis diminished its ability to relieve migraine and headache pain. Cannabis still worked for people with high tolerance, just not as well.
But researchers also added that a higher tolerance to cannabis never made headaches or migraines worse over time. That means cannabis differs dramatically from conventional migraine and headache medications, which can cause “medication overuse headache“. In other words, conventional medications can actually make headaches and migraines worse over time with frequent use. But cannabis doesn’t do that.
In light of these encouraging findings, the study’s authors are calling for more research into cannabis as a headache and migraine treatment. They say future studies need to take a closer look at how dose, type of cannabis, THC, CBD and other cannabinoid interactions influence patient outcomes.