Headache and Migraine: Short- and Long-Term Effects of Medical Cannabis

Short & Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on Headache & Migraine

Headache and Migraine

 According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 50% of adults around the world are affected by headache disorders -various conditions affecting the nervous system that lead to painful symptoms in the head, face, and upper neck. Common triggers of headache disorders include stress, lack of sleep, alcohol intake, fatigue, and certain food and drinks.

Headaches range in frequency, severity, and cause. A migraine is a painful primary headache disorder, often producing more intense and debilitating symptoms compared to headaches. The overall quality of life is significantly impacted during headache disorders, as these may impact the individual’s ability to function. Unfortunately, the pathophysiology of headache disorders is not well understood.

Cannabis is commonly used to reduce headaches and migraines. Although research on the underlying effects of cannabis to treat headache and migraine is sparse, it is probable that THC functions similarly to anandamide which is an endocannabinoid responsible for inhibiting mechanisms that contribute to migraines. A positive correlation between patients with chronic migraines and an anandamide deficiency demonstrates that an under-responsive endocannabinoid system is a factor that may make you more prone to migraines.

 Short Term Effects of Cannabis on Headache and Migraine

Various studies have demonstrated the therapeutic effects of cannabis on headache disorders, with little to none side effects. In a recent study published in the Journal of Pain, nearly 50% of the participants indicated a reduction in headache and migraine after using cannabis, in which cannabis concentrates contributed towards   larger reductions compared to flowers. Interestingly, female participants reported lower reductions in headache after consuming cannabis than men, suggesting the effects of cannabis on headaches may vary by gender.

Long Term Effects of Cannabis on Headache and Migraine

A preclinical study to assess migraine pain in rats also suggested that cannabinoids provide therapeutic effects on migraines. The tolerance to anti-migraine effects of THC and morphine were compared and researchers found that tolerance development only occurred with rats given morphine. However, a clinical research study detected evidence of tolerance to the effects of cannabis on headache and migraine. Although patients reported a 50% reduction in headache and migraine severity following cannabis consumption, the effectiveness decreased over time causing patients to consume larger doses with continued use.

Medication overuse headaches, also known as rebound headaches, are a common problem worldwide due to the excessive use of analgesics to treat headaches and migraines. This paradoxical effect of analgesia increasing headache and migraine frequency has not been detected for cannabis. One study examined changes in baseline symptom ratings across time and consumption to determine whether repeated use of cannabis to alleviate headache and migraine would cause a medication overuse headache. Participants did not exhibit significant changes in baseline severity, whether they were repeatedly consuming cannabis concentrates, flower, or a combination of both types of cannabis.

Cannabis may be an effective therapeutic strategy to improve the quality of life for patients suffering from headache and migraine. If you are looking to treat your headaches with a cannabis-based treatment, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Smart Leaf Health Services. Schedule an appointment today and we will connect you with the right qualified physician covered by Alberta Health, and Health Canada Approved Licensed Producers.


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