Medical Marijuana Shows Promise Reducing Migraine Frequency

Study is the first to show a decrease in migraine frequency from medical marijuana.

Researchers recently that medicinal marijuana significantly reduces the frequency of migraines in patients.

A study published in the journal Pharmacotherapy by the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus examined 121 patients from January 2010 to September 2014.

Of the 121 patients, 103 saw a significant drop in their monthly migraines from approximately 10.4 to 4.6. Only 15 patients reported no change in migraine frequency, while 3 patients experienced an increase in migraines.

This was the first study to show a decrease in migraine frequency from medical marijuana.

"There was a substantial improvement for patients in their ability to function and feel better," said senior study author Laura Borgelt, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS. "Like any drug, marijuana has potential benefits and potential risks. It's important for people to be aware that using medical marijuana can also have adverse effects."

Approximately two-thirds of patients treated at Gedde Whole Healthy, a medical practice specializing in marijuana, reported a history of using marijuana or were currently using it at the time of their first visit.

Inhaling cannabis was the most frequently used form of treatment for acute migraines, while edibles appeared to prevent headaches.

According to researchers, cannabinoid receptors can be found throughout the body, such as the brain, connective tissues, and the immune system. It also appears to affect neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. These receptors have anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties.

"We believe serotonin plays a role in migraine headaches, but we are still working to discover the exact role of cannabinoids in this condition," Borgelt said.

Although the results of the study showed promise, Borgelt looks to create a more controlled and randomized evaluation in the future.

Future studies should require a cannabis washout period before the start period, as well as placebo controlled trial, investigators noted. Researchers also suggested the study be performed like a prescription drug trial that administers standardized quantities and potencies while tracking the migraines.

Unfortunately, because of anti-drug laws, there would need to be a legislative change in order to perform this type of study.

"If patients are considering medical marijuana they should speak to their health care provider and then follow up so we can track the impact of their overall treatment," Borgelt said. "Open communication is necessary because we need to know how all of these treatments work together.”