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Keywords:

  • cannabis;
  • marijuana;
  • migraine;
  • headache

Study Objective

No clinical trials are currently available that demonstrate the effects of marijuana on patients with migraine headache; however, the potential effects of cannabinoids on serotonin in the central nervous system indicate that marijuana may be a therapeutic alternative. Thus, the objective of this study was to describe the effects of medical marijuana on the monthly frequency of migraine headache.

Design

Retrospective chart review.

Setting

Two medical marijuana specialty clinics in Colorado.

Patients

One hundred twenty-one adults with the primary diagnosis of migraine headache who were recommended migraine treatment or prophylaxis with medical marijuana by a physician, between January 2010 and September 2014, and had at least one follow-up visit.

Measurements and Results

The primary outcome was number of migraine headaches per month with medical marijuana use. Secondary outcomes were the type and dose of medical marijuana used, previous and adjunctive migraine therapies, and patient-reported effects. Migraine headache frequency decreased from 10.4 to 4.6 headaches per month (p<0.0001) with the use of medical marijuana. Most patients used more than one form of marijuana and used it daily for prevention of migraine headache. Positive effects were reported in 48 patients (39.7%), with the most common effects reported being prevention of migraine headache with decreased frequency of migraine headache (24 patients [19.8%]) and aborted migraine headache (14 patients [11.6%]). Inhaled forms of marijuana were commonly used for acute migraine treatment and were reported to abort migraine headache. Negative effects were reported in 14 patients (11.6%); the most common effects were somnolence (2 patients [1.7%]) and difficulty controlling the effects of marijuana related to timing and intensity of the dose (2 patients [1.7%]), which were experienced only in patients using edible marijuana. Edible marijuana was also reported to cause more negative effects compared with other forms.

Conclusion

The frequency of migraine headache was decreased with medical marijuana use. Prospective studies should be conducted to explore a cause-and-effect relationship and the use of different strains, formulations, and doses of marijuana to better understand the effects of medical marijuana on migraine headache treatment and prophylaxis.