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Exploring the efficacy of cannabis for acute migraine

Exploring the efficacy of cannabis for acute migraine

Migraine, a debilitating neurological condition characterised by intense headaches often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound, affects over one billion individuals worldwide. Despite its prevalence and significant impact on quality of life, migraine remains a complex and challenging condition to manage effectively. While various pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments are available, a substantial portion of migraine sufferers continue to experience inadequate relief or intolerable side effects from conventional therapies.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in exploring alternative treatments for migraine, particularly those derived from cannabis, or cannabinoids.

The recent study aimed to assess the efficacy of cannabis in treating acute migraine attacks through a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial*. The research explores the potential of cannabinoids, particularly THC and CBD, in alleviating migraine symptoms, filling a crucial gap in evidence-based migraine treatments.

Testing the therapeutic ability of cannabis

The objective of the study described in details in “Neurology” journal, was to rigorously test the effectiveness of cannabis, specifically vaporised cannabis flower containing varying compositions of THC and CBD, in providing relief from acute migraine symptoms.

Prior to this study, preclinical and retrospective investigations hinted at the anti-migraine properties of cannabinoids. However, empirical evidence supporting the efficacy of cannabis in treating migraines was lacking. This trial emerges as the pioneer in assessing the therapeutic potential of cannabis for acute migraine treatment.

Research details and approach

In this meticulously designed trial, adults suffering from migraines underwent treatment for up to four separate migraine attacks, each treated with one of four interventions: 6% THC, 11% CBD, a combination of 6% THC and 11% CBD, or a placebo flower obtained from the NIDA Drug Supply Program.

Vaporisation was the chosen method of administration, with treatments randomised and a washout period of at least one week between interventions. The primary endpoint was the level of pain relief at the two-hour mark post-vaporization, with secondary endpoints including pain freedom and relief from the most bothersome symptom (MBS) at the same interval.

Result: cannabinoids in migraine treatment

A total of 92 participants were enrolled and randomised, with 71 participants treating at least one migraine attack. The majority of participants were female, with a mean age of 41. Analysis of data from 234 migraine attacks revealed that the THC/CBD combination was superior to the placebo in:

  • achieving pain relief (67.2% vs. 46.6%),
  • pain freedom (34.5% vs. 15.5%),
  • MBS freedom (60.3% vs. 34.5%).

All at the two-hour mark. Additionally, sustained pain freedom at 24 hours and sustained MBS freedom at 24 and 48 hours were observed with the THC/CBD mix. THC alone was also superior to the placebo in pain relief (68.9% vs. 46.6%) but not in achieving pain freedom or MBS freedom at two hours. Conversely, CBD alone did not demonstrate superiority over the placebo for any outcomes at the two-hour mark. Notably, no serious adverse events were reported during the trial.

The findings of this groundbreaking trial suggest that vaporised cannabis flower containing 6% THC and 11% CBD is efficacious in providing relief from acute migraine symptoms at the two-hour mark post-treatment, with sustained pain freedom at 24 hours and sustained MBS freedom at 24 and 48 hours. This study contributes significantly to the growing body of evidence supporting the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in migraine management. It can enforce further research and potentially informing clinical practice.


*The research was conducted by: Nathaniel Schuster, Mark Wallace, Dawn Buse, Thomas Marcotte, Euyhyun Lee, Lin Liu, and Michelle Sexton. Full version can be accessed here:


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