Patients who suffer from migraines may reduce the frequency of their headaches using medical marijuana, according to a new study.
In the study – published Jan. 9 in the journal Pharmacotherapy – the researchers looked the number of monthly migraines in 121 patients in Colorado, between January 2010 and September 2014.
They found that of all the study participants, a little over one hundred reported fewer headaches after they started using medical marijuana. About fifteen people said that their headache frequency remained the same, and three of them reported an increase in the frequency of their headaches.
According to the researchers, the frequency of the migraines in people who noticed improvement during the treatment decreased from an average of about ten headaches every month to nearly five headaches per month.
Laura Borgelt, author of the study and a professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, said that for most of the patients there was a substantial improvement after medical marijuana use.
That being said, like any other drug, marijuana can also have potential risks, Borgelt explained. People should be aware that even medical marijuana can sometimes have adverse effects, she added.
For the study, the participants used several forms of marijuana including: smoked, inhaled, and edible forms. To treat actuate migraines, the people preferred inhaled marijuana, the researchers noted. The study participants tended to go for edible marijuana to prevent migraines from occurring in the future.
In addition to marijuana, approximately fifty percent of the people in the study were also using prescription migraine medications, Borgelt said.
Fourteen individuals stated that they experienced side effects, like nausea, bad dreams, and sleepiness, the researchers noted. Of all its forms, edible marijuana was the most associated with the negative side effects.
Although it is still unclear how marijuana may work to prevent or treat migraines, there are several hypotheses. For instance, some scientists have suggested that migraines are linked with a problem in the cannabinoid receptors – brain receptors which affect neurotransmitters like serotonin.
It is likely that there is a connection between migraine headaches and serotonin, according to Borgelt. Previous research has shown that an ingredient in marijuana, called THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), that is triggers most of the drug’s psychological effects, may also affect serotonin levels – which would explain why marijuana helps reduce migraines, Borgelt said.
Borgelt advises people with migraines not to self-medicate using marijuana, because any treatment decision should also involve the opinion of a doctor.
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