Researchers in the US have begun the nation’s first double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study testing the efficacy of cannabis in treating the major symptoms of migraines.
Some 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 suit, but their legislation won’t take effect until the summer.
Despite the recent about-face by many state legislatures on marijuana, research into the efficacy of cannabis products such as THC and CBD has yet to begin in earnest, especially when it comes to chronic pain conditions such as migraine.
However, researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) recently began the first clinical trials to test whether cannabis products might be both a safe and effective treatment for acute migraines.
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At present, the researchers are working with 20 participants who live with frequently occurring migraines, though they hope to expand the test subject group by an additional 70 volunteers in the near future.
Acute migraines are highly debilitating, as the pain can last for hours or, in extreme circumstances, even days, while other symptoms sufferers must contend with include nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light or sound.
Despite a plethora of treatment options, those living with migraines still struggle to find effective relief via traditional pharmaceutical or medical interventions.
To make matters worse, not all patients respond the same to the currently available treatments, and even the ones that do might see the beneficial effects wane over time or cease working altogether. In the interim, people have anecdotally reported success with the use of cannabis as an alternative treatment.
“Many patients who suffer from migraines have experienced them for many years, but have never discussed them with their physicians. They are, rather, self-treating with various treatments, such as cannabis,” says neurologist and headache specialist Nathaniel Schuster of UCSD.
Given the lack of any meaningful research into the efficacy of cannabis or its derivatives as a treatment for chronic pain conditions such as migraines, the UCSD got to work. Its researchers separated the volunteers into four random groups: one that received vape pens with fake cannabis, another which received four puffs of cannabis flower with the psychoactive ingredient THC still present; a third group that was given cannabis with CBD; and the final group that was administered a cannabis vape containing both THC and CBD.
The team will test the efficacy of each group against common migraine symptoms such as headache pain, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound over the long and short term.
Initial results from existing preclinical trials have already shown promise, but this study, and the likely follow-up analyses to come, will hopefully provide some much-needed relief for those living with intense migraines.
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