Cannabis and Headaches_ Everything You Need to Know
Cannabis and Headaches: Everything You Need to Know
Everyone knows how painful headaches can be. And they can be difficult to treat. Headaches can cause prolonged, throbbing pain, sensitivity to light, dizziness, distorted vision, and a host of other symptoms. Sometimes over-the-counter medications simply aren’t sufficient.
Your brain and the rest of your nervous system are filled with cannabinoid receptors. These make up the human endocannabinoid system. It’s an important biological system that regulates major body functions, including appetite, digestion, sleep, immunity, hormones, inflammation, pain, and pleasure. Humans and all other mammals possess this system, which helps keep the body in homeostasis.
When a person consumes cannabis, the cannabinoid receptors in the ECS bind to cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, and others. Each of these cannabinoids is processed from cannabis in a different way and has different effects on the body. For instance, when THC binds to your cannabinoid receptors, you might feel elation and other positive feelings. Other cannabinoids such as CBD and lesser-known ones such as CBG aren’t psychoactive but studies suggest they could help relieve pain, feelings of nausea, anxious thoughts, muscle spasms, swelling, and other ailments.
Does Cannabis Work for Headaches?
When traditional treatment methods for headaches have been exhausted, people often turn to alternative forms of pain management. Prescription pharmaceuticals aren’t the only option for people who suffer from chronic headaches or migraines. Some choose therapies such as acupuncture and specialized massage. Others find cannabis helpful.
Although studies are limited and more research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of cannabis as a headache treatment, there’s some evidence that suggests cannabis might not only relieve painful headaches but could also help prevent them from happening.
In 2019, the Journal of Pain published a study that found that cannabis used to treat headaches and migraines reduced the participant’s pain by 50 percent. Moreover, they found that cannabis concentrates were even more effective than cannabis flower at reducing symptoms. Over 1,300 individuals participated in the study. According to the study, more men than women reported a reduction of symptoms due to cannabis use.
The study documented that the sample group required higher doses to achieve the same effects the longer they used cannabis as a pain management treatment. That indicated to researchers that regular use could increase a subject’s tolerance.
Risks of Cannabis Use for Headaches
Many individuals who suffer from headaches understandably want the quickest method of pain relief. Inhaling cannabis offers quick onset of relief, but smoking cannabis does come with risks. Smoking can cause irritation to the throat, airway, and lungs, which can cause issues over time. Thankfully, there are alternative ways to consume cannabis today, such as edibles, vaporizers, tinctures, and oils.
Some evidence suggests that long-term use could cause users to build a tolerance to cannabis, which requires an increasing amount of cannabis to treat the same symptoms over time. There are ways to reduce this risk, such as by starting with a very low dose and increasing the dose until the desired effect is reached. Taking breaks between periods of use may also help reduce tolerance.
As more studies of cannabis begin and come to their conclusions, scientists may find other solutions to the potential risks of using cannabis to treat headaches. Cannabis industry insiders and researchers both expect increased funding and interest in the study of its use over the coming decades.
More studies are needed to prove that cannabis is an effective treatment for headaches and migraines, but the existing evidence is promising. Many people who have tried over-the-counter medications and prescription painkillers are unsatisfied with their efficacy and side effects. Cannabinoids, in their various forms, could present the answer.