Migraine/Headache

Headaches and migraines cost the United States approximately between $13 and $17 billion per year. There is no known cause of headache and migraine, although it is a common feature of many other ailments. Pain, depression, diet, other medications, hormonal changes, stress, illnesses such as cold and flu, and environmental factors (e.g. a lack of oxygen in the air) may cause headaches and migraines. Though there is no known cause, headaches and migraines may be the result of abnormal brain activity resulting in the nerves, blood vessels and chemicals in the brain being affected.

As the causes of headaches/migraine are unknown, treating them – especially long-lasting, persistent ones – is a mystery as well, 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.

Value of Medical Marijuana

Indicas are once again the most used type of stain for headaches, at 33.42%. Sativas and hybrids are used as well, but not to as great an extent (23.05% and 19.85% respectively). Now, as there are lots of conditions that can cause headaches, from stress to chemotherapy side-effects. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that there is a bit more equality between strain types and those who use cannabis for headaches. However, as many people are likely to think “headaches = pain = indica is best”, this could well be a case of confirmation bias as opposed to fact.

Positives

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Negatives

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Treatments

Though many NSAIDs are generally safe, taking too many can cause liver and kidney failure. Some, like naproxen, carry with them a high risk of stomach ulceration. In extreme cases, opioids may be used, but their use is not recommended in the treatment of headaches and migraines in anything but the most extreme cases. Triptans (serotonin receptor agonists) such as sumatriptan (Imitrex), zolmitriptan (Zomig) and eletriptan (Relpax) are another class of drug that may be used in migraine and headache treatment. The precise way in which triptans’ antimigraine abilities work is not precisely known, but it is suspected that it is to do with serotonin uptake. This is one of the main reasons why cannabinoids may be of particular use for insomnia.

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