A recent review of medical literature, courtesy of the Headache Center at the Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, has shown that cannabis has potential therapeutic effects for the treatment of headache disorders, including migraines.
Some British doctors have been treating headaches and migraines with cannabis since the 1840’s, but nearly worldwide prohibition in the 20th Century made medical cannabis research grind to a halt until fairly recently. Some evidence exists for treating headache disorders with cannabis, but nowadays the standards for prescription drugs have risen, and researchers need to prove the efficacy of a drug before patients can legally take it.
Hopefully, this recent publication will act as a spark for new research into cannabis as a headache treatment, so doctors can start prescribing it. Sufferers of painful migraines and cluster headaches deserve a treatment that’s not only functional, but also void of any harmful side effects.
Headaches or not, cannabis shows strong evidence for pain relief treatment.
“A review of 38 published randomized controlled trials evaluating cannabinoids in pain management revealed that 71 percent concluded that cannabinoids had empirically demonstrable and statistically significant pain-relieving effects, whereas 29 percent did not,” Eric P. Baron of the Cleveland Clinic Department of Neurology and author of the report said.
Human biology can back this up as well.
“CB1 receptors [one of the body’s cannabinoid receptors] are 10 times more concentrated then μ-opioid receptors in the brain,” he continued.
Anyone who has suffered a migraine headache will tell you the pain is unlike any other, and standard pain-relievers generally don’t work. Drug makers have developed a class of medicines called triptans to treat migraines. These specialized drugs act on certain serotonin receptors in the body, a system with extensive connections to the endocannabinoid system. In fact, the connection between the endocannabinoid system and migraines runs as deep as a person’s genetic code.
“Variations in the cnr1 gene on chromosome 6, which encodes for the CB1 receptor, in a region that has shown linkage with migraine, are associated with a greater risk of developing migraine,” Baron explained.
Acetaminophen (aka paracetomol) piggybacks the endocannabinoid system to relieve minor pain, and it seems these triptan migraine drugs might act in a similar manner. Migraines often have a trigger that patients can identify, but the underlying cause still remains mostly a mystery.
“Endocannabinoid deficiency has been theorized as a possible cause for migraine and other chronic pain disorders, including chronic migraine and medication overuse headache,” Baron said.
With only scant and anecdotal evidence, doctors and caregivers still don’t have the proper arsenal of information to start prescribing cannabis for headaches. If you already know that weed relieves your headaches or migraines, then nobody is stopping you from smoking it (well, you know what we mean). And don’t be afraid to tell your doctor that cannabis helps you—that information can be used to help others as well.
(Photo Courtesy of Julien Ricco)