Medical Marijuana and Migraine

Did you know that marijuana has been used to treat migraine headaches since the 6th century?  No, neither did we.  What we do know, however, is that many anecdotal reports cite cannabis as one of the best treatments available for a very incapacitating complaint.

What is Migraine

Migraine is not, repeat not, just a bad headache.  It is a recognized neurological disease and the most common one.  It affects people from every strata of society and two-thirds of sufferers are female.  The condition is most common between the ages of 20-50 years but can occur at any time – my own migraines started when I was 10 years old.

Migraine attacks last for between four hours and seventy-two and can come on very suddenly.  That colleague of yours who is of sick with a migraine is not just having a duvet day or ‘pulling a sickie.’

Migraine Symptoms

  • Patients usually describe their migraine headaches as an intense, throbbing pain on one side of the head – usually the temple, but not always. Other sites of the pain are the forehead, behind the eye, or at the back of the head.
  • Migraines typically affect just one side of the head.  In fact, the word migraine came, via quite a circuitous root, from the Greek word hemikrania, which translates to half-skull.
  • The pain isn’t always on the same side of the head but tends to sides from one attack to the next.
  • There are symptoms in addition to the headache – in fact, some migraineurs never experience the headache bit!  Other symptoms are:
  • nausea, vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • facial pallor
  • cold hands and feet
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • Up to 60% of migraineurs report ‘warning signs’ that come on before the headache itself.  These symptoms include:
  • sleepiness,
  • irritability,
  • fatigue,
  • depression or euphoria,
  • yawning
  • cravings for sweet or salty foods

Medications for Moderate to Severe Migraine

Over the counter (OTC) remedies seldom work for moderate to severe migraine and most sufferers will need medication prescribed by their doctor.  These medicines are not simple pain killers; rather they abort the migraine by acting directly on the root cause of the problem.  Migraines are caused by the dilatation of the temporal arteries; that is, the arteries supplying the temples become widened.

There are two major drug groups used in migraine: the ergots and the triptans; both of which come with rather scary side effects.

Ergots work by constricting the blood vessels, as do the triptans.  However, ergots have more prolonged effects than triptans and they cause greater constriction of vessels in the heart.  They also cause contractions of the pregnant uterus.

Triptans, as noted above, constrict blood vessels, albeit in a far more selective manner with most of the effect being in the head.  However, they can and do also cause constriction of the blood vessels in the heart, thus reducing blood flow.  Another worrying side effect of the triptan group is the way they interact with SSRIs – a group of commonly prescribed antidepressants. Both types of medication interfere with serotonin levels in the brain and, when taken together, can lead to a dangerous condition known as Serotonin Syndrome.

Marijuana for Migraine

During a migraine attack, the gut loses its ability to absorb, which is why tablets taken during this time are usually thrown straight back up again.  Some modern medications – particularly the triptans – are now administered by dissolving them under the tongue to bypass this problem. This method of administration also means that relief is rapid.

Even more rapid relief is achieved by inhalation of the medicine into the lungs – exactly what happens when marijuana is taken using a vaporizer or smoked. And cannabis is an anti-emetic, that is, cannabis stops you from vomiting.

The cannabinoids in marijuana also have both anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties.  Cannabis also relaxes tense muscles; a well documented symptom frequently accompanying migraines is cramping of the neck and shoulder muscles.

As far as dosage is concerned, this is very much dictated by patient need.  It must be said, however, that some patients gain four-to-six hours relief from just 1 gram of bud.

Cannabis works best when combined non-drug relief, such as restricted light and sound during attacks, and avoidance of known triggers.

Marijuana helps these medical conditions

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Comments

  1. I have recently started having migrain headaches and I have to say it is painful. I recently started smoking marijuana in order to cope with the pain and it helps. Luckily for me I live in Denver where marijuana is legal and I go to this one dispensary closest to my house and get some Kush and it usually takes my pain right away.

    The bad part is that I am risking being fired from my job because of it.

  2. lets take a minute and really look at things. People have been advocating for eastern and native therapies for ever, not just in the past 100 0r so years.

    Remember learning about Socrates and not to mention, um the BIBLE. Natural uses and research have been done numerous times, repeatedly for ever. Now, its so cool to be GREEN. Hello, my word, relax, get grounded, and use those knobs on our shoulders for something other than screwing the neighbor and cheating on tests.

  3. It really works. Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s I spent a lot of time in the ER with migraines.

    I started using marijuana when I got nauseated from the pain and the nausea and headache went away. It’s time to legalize it folks.
    Now I use Imetrex as needed and take a beta blocker every morning.

    I like my home remedy better, but I like my job more.

  4. For the most part its illegal (marijuana) because people are just plain stupid. the government says its bad and the flock follows. I have had migraines since I was about 8 and was diagnosed at 13 and have them pretty much 2-4 times a month, like you I have found that marijuana helps not only to relieve the pain but if used on a daily basis I have no migraines.

    I would suggest moving to a state that has medical marijuana, it is far greater than putting man made chemicals in your body, I was using Vicodin for over 10 years to control my migraines only to become a slave to it. Took about 2 months to kick the opiates. The other problem is Doc’s don’t like giving opiates on a reg basis for migraines and they want you to try crap like imitrex, Treximet, Acxel, Midrin, Naproxen or Darvocet. I could go on and on about these meds but simply put they dont work for me and they dont work for anyone else I know that has migraines but try telling your doc that, he or she will just write you off as a drug seeker.

    If your state doesn’t have medical marijuana get involved and try to change it. I would suggest checking out NORML. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

  5. I have regularly used marijuana for the past 10 years. In 2004 i had Meningitis and 2 weeks later was diagnosed with Encephalitis. Most of the swelling was around my optic nerve. I was told i could develop hearing, vision, memory, and migraine problems later on down the road.

    I was just recently ordered to go to Alcohol and Drug assessment for my 1st OWI so i have stopped smoking for the first time in 10 years. Ive had bad headaches before, but NOW these migraines that were suppressed for so long by the marijuana are surfacing and they are HORRIBLE.

    At first i thought maybe with drawl, but that’s impossible since marijuana is not addictive and i really dont feel a strong URGE to use it. I wouldn’t wish this pain and feeling on anybody. I cant believe that just smoking weed everyday has prevented me from experiencing these migraines.

    It breaks my heart to know i live in a world that wont allow me to keep using a medication that has worked NON-STOP for 10 years. I dont want to be prescribed narcotics and opiates for 2 reasons…i dont want to become dependent on them and my boyfriend is a recovering heroin addict…opiates are the LAST thing i want in my house.

    So this puts me in a really Sh**y position to make a decision…now the question i have to ask to people who vote NO is…why? It is OBVIOUSLY not harmful in anyway (from 97 to 2005 0 deaths were primary suspected to be caused by marijuan compared to the 10,000 deaths caused by LEGAL FDA APPROVED MEDICATIONS…thats NOT including opiates and narcotics)…that being said…having medical value or not…why is it illegal? This is like making corn illegal…

    I really hope this country will stop and take a long look at the people who dont WANT to be addicted to pain medication or have to get shots for their migraines. Give medical marijuana a chance and i think we will ALL notice an inclination in the attitude of this country as a whole.

  6. I just started using medical marijuana for migraines. It is very, very helpful with the pain and nausea. Unfortunately it hasn’t helped with frequency yet. But when you have daily pain and all that is available to you is vicodin and morphine. Very importantly, the edibles (capsules & food) work WAY better than inhaling vapor or smoke for me. In fact, vaporizing and smoking seem to almost make my migraines worse.

  7. I have been suffering migraines for the last 4 years, 2-3 monthly, and I agree that marijuana is one of the few things that are effective.

    If I do not smoke, I will usually end up vomiting and having to walk hunched over because if I look or stand up I get a blinding pain, literally.

    What works best is laying down while smoking out of a vaporizer, also I use a bag of rice made out of a t shirt (the size of a grapefruit) and apply that to where it hurts, back of the eye or temple.

    Try this and I think it will really ease the pain and tension. Now all I have to do is get my “green card” and get it legally from all the shops out here is Seattle!!

  8. I suffer by migraines on a regular basis which has kept me from living a active life.

    I have had migraines since I was 8 years old and I’m 30 now. I have been prescribed everything from pills I take daily as well as imatrex injections I take at the onset of a migraine, sure they work for a short period of time but the pain is so unbearable that my husband has had to take me to the ER on several occasions to get something to help ease the pain.

    I have about 6-9 migraines a month and in between I have dull headaches which has me on FMLA at work so I cant lose my job if I get a migraine. Finally Arizona has passed the Medical Marijuana and it’s only a matter of time where I can see if using this more natural method will help not only my migraines but my anxiety and insomnia.

    I cant imagine taking all the pills I’ve been prescribed is good for my body as well as the morphine the ER pumps me full of to just dull the pain. I just want the pain to stop. Come on Arizona lets get the paperwork pushed!

  9. Migraine can really be very painful. I have seen my brother suffer and it’s really frustrating that he has to endure the pain :( I read in some articles that marijuana can really help ease migraine but it should be given with doctor’s prescription. Sadly, no doctor would prescribe such medicine to my brother because marijuana is illegal from where we live.

  10. That picture is one of the best visual representations of what a migraine feels like!

    My own feel like something tunneling out, no fire just shearing/ripping/throbbing pain on one side–so, I would manipulate slightly to reflect my own torture:) It has been difficult to clearly convey verbally the excrutiating pain to colleagues who are fortunate enough to not suffer or have loved ones who suffer.

    They have no idea how careful we have to be with every aspect (diet, environment, excercise, sleep, etc) just in the hope of avoiding an episode, only to sometimes get them no matter what. I personally prefer narcotics, but entirely support those who can alleviate suffering with marijuana. (And would love to see clinical trials that characterize the treatment…)

  11. I was just wondering if cannabis could help with vestibular migrain disorders and meniers disease. and if so, in what way does it work.

  12. I have suffered from migraines for many years I also have tension headaches and cluster headaches along with them I have been in pain for about 5 years now.

    This pain can be pretty over whelming most of the time. It affects my life in lots of ways. I find that smoking helps keep the nausea down, I cant keep any kind of medicine at all down when hurting like this. Also this cause lots of stress on my heart I also have a heart condition along with several other medical conditions. Smoking relaxes me and I believe makes my quality of life better.

    I wish I lived in a state where medical marijuana was legal. I did live in The Netherlands for a few years.

  13. I am 19 yrs old and have been suffering from migraines since I was 7.

    I started having loss of consciousness with them my sophomore yr. of high school. I have been using/comparing marijuana and prescribed migraine medicines to help my condition.

    Other than narcotics, marijuana has been the most effective abortive “medication” that has worked. It stops the throbbing and nausea after my second hit. With every migraine attack that I have had and used marijuana for relief, not only did the headache subside, but I also have never had the syncope episode that usually comes with it every time. It has been a very reliable abortive and preventative source of relief for me. I can actually function like a human being, pain free.

  14. Excellent topics, I really like this topics. Can you please publish more articles? After long searching I found this online that, the best chiropractic clinic helps people in Lawrenceville GA with back pain, neck pain, headaches. Call their office and speak to any one of their friendly staff to make an appointment for a FREE consultation.

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