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Migraine and Cannabis

Treating Migraines with Cannabis


Migraines are a specific type of painful, chronic headache that typically manifest along with nausea and vomiting, visual and auditory disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound. According to the National Headache Foundation, approximately 28 million Americans suffer from chronic migraines, with a quarter of those experiencing four or more headaches per month that can last up to three days.In addition to pounding or throbbing pain that may be increased with physical activity, migraines are characterized by light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, and blurred vision. Most people experience an “aura” up to a few hours before the onset of a headache, which can include hearing strange sounds or having vision disturbance.Migraine headaches have a variety of causes, with treatment often centering around identifying and avoiding headache “triggers.” These can include emotional stress; certain foods such as caffeine, alcohol, preservatives, and other ingredients; hormonal changes, especially related to menstruation; changes in barometric pressure, and fatigue. Experts believe that migraines are related to an abnormality in a specific area of the brain; approximately 80 percent of people who have migraines have another family member who also experiences these headaches.

Beyond identifying triggers, migraines are typically treated with over the counter pain medications. If these are ineffective, doctors may prescribe stronger prescription pain relievers. There are also drugs on the market that can be taken daily to prevent migraines from developing.

According to research published by The Journal of Neuroscience, cannabis not only offers relief from the chronic pain associated with migraine headaches, but may actually prevent these headaches from occurring. Other doctors agree that ingestion of marijuana can alleviate the pain of migraine headaches without the side effects associated with stronger prescription pain medication. One possible reason is that the substances called cannabinoids in marijuana have anti-inflammatory properties, so they relax blood vessels that are constricted during a headache. Marijuana is also effective in treating nausea, a common side effect of migraines.

In Illinois, medical marijuana is approved for use to treat migraine headaches; in all but one other state with medical cannabis, it is approved to treat chronic pain. While smoking marijuana is known to cause lung damage, the safest way to ingest medical cannabis is either through vaporization or edibles.

If you experience more than one headache a month, talk with your doctor. He or she can determine whether you’re experiencing migraines and recommend a course of treatment.

For more information visit the American Migraine Foundation.

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