Pharmacy School Finds Medical Marijuana May Reduce Migraine Frequency

Medical marijuana may reduce the number of migraines that a patient experiences each month.

Medical marijuana may reduce the number of migraines that a patient experiences each month.

Research conducted by the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus involved 121 adult patients at 2 medical marijuana specialty clinics in Colorado. All of the patients experienced migraines and were recommended for migraine treatment or prophylaxis with medical marijuana by a physician between 2010 and 2014.

From this research, the study investigators discovered that the number of headaches per month dropped from 10.4 to 4.6 when patients used medical marijuana.

Almost 40% of the patients reported positive effects. In fact, 19.8% of patients reported that medical marijuana helped prevent their migraine headaches, and 11.6% reported that it stopped their migraine headaches.

In addition, the researchers found that 103 patients saw a decrease in migraine frequency, 15 patients had the same number of migraines per month, and only 3 saw an increase in migraines. The patients typically used more than one form of marijuana (vaporized, edible, topical, or smoked), and they used the product daily as a preventive measure against migraines.

Inhalation was the mode of use among the 12 patients who said medical marijuana helped stop their migraines. Thus, this method may have a quicker onset of action, even more so than edible marijuana.

Adverse effects were reported in 11.6% of patients, and the most common complaints were somnolence and difficulty with the timing and intensity of the dose, which was a problem only among those who used edible marijuana. In general, edible marijuana was more likely to result in adverse effects than the other methods.

The researchers called for more research on the cause-and-effect relationship, different strains and formulations, and doses. An ideal future study would be a randomized, placebo-controlled study that tracked adherence, number of migraines, and adverse effects in a comparable method as a prescription drug study.

The researchers emphasized that health care providers should be prepared to discuss risks and benefits of marijuana use. In addition, prescription and OTC medication should be monitored to optimize medication use, they noted.