CBD & Medical Marijuana for Migraine

Migraine, is a complex and often disabling neurological disease, affecting nearly 40 million Americans. Studies have shown that roughly one out of every six Americans and one in five women self-reported migraine. While anyone can have a migraine, women, especially those between the ages of 20 and 45, account for three out of four people living with the disease. If you or a loved one live with migraine, you know how devastating they can be.

The science of migraine is complicated, and the cause isn’t fully understood, although the medical community believes that genetics and environmental factors play a role. While there is no cure for migraine, significant research advances have yielded ten new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved treatments in the last few years. Unfortunately, the medication cost puts them out of reach for many uninsured patients and those whose insurance does not yet cover the new drugs. Still, others desire less invasive treatments.

One avenue that several people have taken is using CBD and medical marijuana. A recent Miles for Migraines Education Day focused on these treatments. The presentation includes information about how the therapy works and recommendations for people considering it.

Although CBD and medical marijuana use for migraine is an emerging protocol, there’s still relatively little data available on its effectiveness. The Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia evaluated the efficacy of marijuana use for patients with migraine at the July 2020 annual meeting of the American Headache Society, based on self-reporting of patients with chronic migraine. The findings indicated that 20 percent of the subjects rated marijuana’s efficacy in treating migraine as a ten, using a scale of one to ten. Earlier studies, including one in the Journal of Pain, summarized that headache and migraine ratings were reduced by nearly 50 percent after using cannabis.

The History of Cannabis as an Effective Headache Treatment

Cannabis was introduced to the West in 1839 as a treatment for headache disorders and endorsed by several notable physicians, including Sir William Osler, often considered the father of modern medicine. After it became illegal by the U.S. government, research investigations into its effectiveness were discontinued. Only recently have new clinical studies started to emerge.

Legal Challenges

In the U.S., medical marijuana is a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act, defined by the federal government as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. As of 2019, 47 states plus the District of Columbia have passed at least some legislation allowing legal medical cannabis use, though many are very, very restrictive.l The laws governing the types of medical conditions that allow for medical marijuana as treatment varies from state to state. 

The legalities around CBD are ambiguous and complicated. It seems you can purchase CBD products almost everywhere. Although the 2018 Farm Bill removed legal restrictions if derived from hemp plants, selling CBD products is illegal; however, purchasing CBD products is legal (sometimes). It all has to do with the percentage of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in the hemp plant. 

Part of the problem is that there’s a lack of evidence to support CBD’s use for most medical conditions or migraine in particular. A few studies and anecdotal reports suggest that there may be some benefit to CBD for migraine, but more research is needed. 

Greater awareness and public support are needed to increase funding for research to ensure that the lives of those who live with migraine and other headache disorders, and their families, can one day anticipate a cure. Through migraine support and community groups, Education Day events, and a slate of other programs, Miles for Migraines is working toward that goal. 


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