A study from Washington State University has found inhaled cannabis reduces self-reported headache and migraine severity by 49.6 percent and 47.3 percent, respectively. The study, published in the Journal of Pain is the first to use data from headache and migraine patients using cannabis in real-time, according to the study’s authors.
The author’s note that all previous studies relied on patients’ recalling the effect of cannabis use in the past, and that the one clinical study researching headaches, migraines, and cannabis used nabilone, a synthetic cannabis drug, but that study also found that cannabis was better at alleviating headaches than ibuprofen.
Carrie Cuttler, a Washington State University assistant professor of psychology and the study’s lead author, said the researchers were “motivated” to do the study “because a substantial number of people say they use cannabis for headache and migraine, but surprisingly few studies had addressed the topic.”
“We wanted to approach this in an ecologically valid way, which is to look at actual patients using whole plant cannabis to medicate in their own homes and environments. These are also very big data, so we can more appropriately and accurately generalize to the greater population of patients using cannabis to manage these conditions.” – Cutter, in a statement
In the study, researchers analyzed archived data from the Strainprint app, which allows patients to track symptoms before and after using medical cannabis purchased from licensed Canadian producers and distributors. The data was submitted by more than 1,300 patients who used the app over 12,200 times to track changes in headache from before to after cannabis use, and another 653 who used the app more than 7,400 times to track changes in migraine severity.
The study found a nominal gender difference with significantly more sessions involving headache reduction reported by men (90.0 percent) than by women (89.1 percent). The researchers found that concentrates produced a larger reduction in headache severity ratings than the flower.
Importantly, the researchers found no significant difference in pain reduction among strains that were higher or lower in levels of THC and CBD, suggesting that terpenes or other cannabinoids may lay a role in providing headache and migraine relief.