Researchers in the United States have embarked on the country’s first double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study to test the effectiveness of cannabis in treating the main symptoms of migraines.
About 16 states and Washington DC have legalized marijuana use by adults over the age of 21, while 37 states have legalized medical marijuana. New Mexico and Virginia will follow, but their legislation won’t go into effect until the summer.
Despite the recent U-turn by many state lawmakers on marijuana, research into the effectiveness of cannabis products like THC and CBD has yet to begin in earnest, especially when it comes to chronic pain conditions like migraines.
However, researchers at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) recently started the first clinical trials to test whether cannabis products can be both a safe and an effective treatment for acute migraines.
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The researchers are currently working with 20 participants living with common migraines. However, they hope to add another 70 volunteers to the group of test subjects in the near future.
Acute migraines are very debilitating in that the pain can last for hours or, in extreme circumstances, days, while other symptoms that sufferers struggle with include nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light or noise.
Despite a wide variety of treatment options, people with migraines still struggle to find effective relief from traditional pharmaceutical or medical interventions.
To make matters worse, not all patients respond equally to currently available treatments, even those whose positive effects wear off or stop working over time. Meanwhile, people have anecdotally reported successes in using cannabis as an alternative treatment.
“Many patients with migraines have experienced them for many years but never discussed them with their doctors. Rather, they treat themselves with various treatments like cannabis, ”says UCSD neurologist and headache specialist Nathaniel Schuster.
Given the lack of meaningful research into the effectiveness of cannabis or its derivatives for treating chronic pain conditions such as migraines, the UCSD got to work. The researchers divided the volunteers into four random groups: one to receive vape pens with counterfeit cannabis; another to receive four puffs of cannabis flower with the remaining psychoactive ingredient THC; a third group given cannabis with CBD; and the last group to be given a cannabis vape that contained both THC and CBD.
The team will test the effectiveness of each group against common migraine symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound in the long and short term.
Initial results from existing preclinical studies have already shown promise, but this study and the likely follow-up analysis will hopefully bring much-needed relief for people with intense migraines.
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