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Medical Marijuana Proves Helpful in Treating Migraine


Migraineurs searching for treatment options may consider medical marijuana to decrease their migraine attacks.

A new study, conducted at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado, included 121 patients who were treated with medical marijuana during the period from January, 2010, to September, 2014.  Of those patients, 103 reported a decrease in monthly migraine attacks while 15 reported no change, and three saw an increase. On average, the frequency of migraine attacks dropped significantly, from 10.4 to 4.6 headaches per month. Some patients reported more dramatic results, starting at 15 migraine attacks each month down to 2 or 3.

“There was a substantial improvement for patients in their ability to function and feel better,” said the study’s senior author, Professor Laura Borgelt, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS.

She also provided some words of caution.

“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,” she said.

Researchers evaluated the charts of patients treated at a medical practice that specializes in marijuana treatment. About two-thirds of the patients studied reported a history of, or were currently using, cannabis at the time of their initial visit.

Inhaled marijuana appeared to be the favorite method for treating acute migraine, while edible cannabis, which takes longer to take effect, helped prevent headache. Over the course of the study, 14 patients reported adverse effects, including sleepiness, bad dreams, and nausea; edible marijuana was associated with more side effects than other marijuana forms.

NHF’s President, Arthur Elkind, MD, stressed caution about the results, noting the study’s small size and that long-term side effects have not been studied in detail, which he called especially important given the concern about cognitive impairment in long-time marijuana users.

“Multiple studies based on medically scientific principles will have to be completed to advise on marijuana’s safe and therapeutic value,” he said.

The study was published recently in Pharmacotherapy.


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