Treating migraines and headaches – especially long-lasting, persistent ones – is a mystery, as they don’t always respond to standard pain relievers. Migraines in particular are difficult to treat, and the usual course of ibuprofen or paracetamol (acetaminophen) may not work. Cannabis may prove to be an effective migraine-killer without the need to use opioids and other potentially addictive and/or dangerous non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
The mechanism behind the relief to migraines cannabis provides is unknown, but it could be because of an endocannabinoid deficiency and an abnormal inflammatory response. Cannabis may also dilate blood vessels, allowing more oxygen to circulate around the brain. Currently, a class of drugs known as “triptans” are used as they work by blocking proinflammatory compounds in the brain. However, triptans are expensive, have lots of side-effects such as nausea and vomiting, and insurance companies often limit the amount of triptans that can be dispensed to patients.
- Safer and cheaper than many drugs used to beat migraines
- Cannabinoids may bind to areas of the brain that modulates pain transmission, which can cause migraines
- THC may reduce serotonin release, which blocks vomiting and pain in migraine sufferers
- “Rebound headaches” may occur after cessation of cannabis use
- Some report an increase in the migraine pain, followed by a decrease
- Smoking may induce headaches in some
- Cannabis may not be useful for cluster headaches – there may be more effective things to use, but please don’t take this as medical advice!