Medical marijuana - while growing in popularity for treatment of conditions from epilepsy to chronic pain to glaucoma – is difficult to study from a scientific perspective. While more and more states are decriminalizing marijuana for medical use, pot is still not legal for any use at the federal level. This did not stop doctors from the University of Colorado and private Colorado medical practices from compiling and studying information on how well marijuana performed in the treatment and prevention of migraine headaches. What they found shows a need for greater legal investigation.

Fewer migraines, help for acute pain

The recent study in the medical journal Pharmacotherapy, entitled, “Effects of Medical Marijuana on Migraine Headache Frequency in an Adult Population” showed clear and substantial clinical benefit of marijuana use in the majority of migraine patients. The records of 121 patients who had been diagnosed by a physician with migraine and were referred to try medical marijuana for treatment or prevention between 2010 and 2014 were reviewed. The researchers were looking to determine:

  • The number of migraine headaches per month while using medical marijuana
  • The type and dose level to the marijuana used
  • How the patients reported effects

Smoked, vaporized, topical and edible forms of marijuana were used in the study at varying doses.

103 of the 121 patients reported a decrease to the number of migraines they had each month, from an average of 10.4 to 4.6. 15 patients did not see a change in frequency of headaches and 3 patients indicated they had an increase. 14 patients reported that inhaled cannabis stopped acute migraines.

Few side effects

The most common side effect was somnolence, or the desire to sleep. Two patients reported that with edible forms of the drug that there was difficulty controlling the dose, strength, and effects. The study indicated that edible marijuana caused more negative side effects such as nausea than other forms of ingestion.

The doctors call for changes to federal marijuana laws, so that further research through larger studies with controls and comparisons to other medications or placebo can be completed. The promise showed in this study is only a beginning to help those disabled by chronic and acute migraine.

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