Can Medical Marijuana Treat Migraines? Here’s What You Need to Know

As of 2018, 30 of 50 U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana to treat a variety of diseases and conditions. Some states, for example, have approved medical marijuana use for health issues such as depression, arthritis, and chronic pain.

Migraines are another condition that could qualify you for a medical marijuana card in a handful of states, including California and New Jersey.

These chronic headaches aren’t your typical bouts of discomfort easily treatable with painkillers and a nap. Migraines cause intense pain that lasts. When they occur frequently, they can make it difficult for someone to go about their lives as they normally would. Work, errands, and even the simplest tasks can become nearly impossible.

The rising legalization of medical marijuana nationwide has prompted more people to seek out cannabis-based treatments for conditions like marijuana instead of traditional prescription medications. Some people have to rely on opioids to relieve their pain and, understandably, are desperate for alternatives.

But does it work? Clinical trials and other forms of long-term research are still limited. But small, preliminary studies might pave the way for larger, more in-depth research in the future.

Marijuana leaf

Marijuana leaf | OpenRangeStock/iStock/Getty Images

How does cannabis relieve migraines?

CBD (cannabidiol) oil interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and nervous system. From what doctors know right now, it’s believed that CBD helps the body maintain high levels of a compound that plays a role in pain regulation, therefore reducing pain.

It might also reduce inflammation throughout the body.

Cannabis has been used for thousands of years as an alternative method for treating issues such as pain. Restrictive U.S. laws have made it more difficult for scientists to properly research for specific conditions like migraines. But that’s slowly changing.

One small study found that participants who were treated with medical marijuana experienced fewer migraine headaches per month than those who underwent traditional treatment. But this is just one example of research that shows promise, but doesn’t quite prove which side of the argument is right or wrong. Yet.

Cannabis oil

Cannabis oil | OlegMalyshev/Getty Images

Many studies are often misinterpreted because even though the results seem to say cannabis is an effective treatment, major flaws in the research design still leave scientists unsure.

That doesn’t mean medical marijuana can’t relieve your worst migraine symptoms. If that’s the case, doctors just aren’t sure whether it’s actually the chemical derived from marijuana or something else you might be doing that leads to relief.

However, research does support the idea that medical marijuana can be used to treat migraine side effects like nausea and anxiety. Even if it doesn’t treat the actual migraine, it can help you avoid some of the more unpleasant effects of it.

If more states legalize medical marijuana, then it’s likely more research will reveal evidence supporting or challenging its use for migraines and other forms of chronic and acute pain. For now, anecdotal and some preliminary evidence is all we have to rely on. It’s not the most reliable support, but it gives many people desperate for relief the hope they need to keep moving forward.

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