Medicinal Cannabis Research Wrap - 26th August

Cannabis Could Reduce Severity of Migraines


A migraine is a severe headache that increases sensitivity to light and noise and induces nausea and vomiting. Approximately one in ten people suffer from migraines in New Zealand and while they are not life threatening, they cause severe discomfort and often lead the sufferer to be incapacitated for the duration. A recent study (1) carried out by researchers at Washington State University has investigated the use of inhaled cannabis to reduce the severity of a migraine after onset.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Pain used an app to track patients’ conditions in real time during a migraine, both before and after taking cannabis grown by Canadian medical distributors. Over 1300 patients participated, contributing to more than 12,000 individual entries on the app. The results showed that inhaling cannabis reduced self-reported migraine severity by 49.6%.

Something that is interesting to note was the insignificant difference in pain reduction regardless of strain composition. Pain reduction remained consistent regardless of whether the patient was using high THC strains or high CBD. While these results are extremely promising, a lot more research is needed. This type of study relied on self-selected participants who may have already anticipated the cannabis would work in a positive way. It is also important to note, using this method of self-selection, it is not possible to include a placebo control group.

1) Carrie Cuttler, Alexander Spradlin, Michael J. Cleveland, Rebecca M. Craft. Short- and Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on Headache and Migraine. The Journal of Pain, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2019.11.001

Self-Selecting study shows promising results for Cannabis as an Analgesic


A study (2) carried out at the University of New Mexico has recently found strong evidence to suggest that cannabis can play a strong and consistent role in alleviating pain. The current standard treatment for severe chronic pain relies on opiate based prescription medications such as morphine, codeine and tramadol; which are known to cause harmful side effects and addiction.

The researchers in this study used information collected in real time by users via a publicly available app. The information gathered from this app showed on average, cannabis alleviated pain scores by three points on a 1-10 scale. The greatest analgesic response came from participants using whole, dried flower with a high THC content. In contrast, participants that used CBD products or high CBD content flower reported very little momentary changes in pain scores.

Studies such as this that use apps to collect data from self-selecting participants are extremely useful to provide a broad picture of use and effects particularly in areas where medical use is still prohibited. It is still very important to consider that studies like these tend to attract participants that already have a positive view and experience of cannabis and as a result of this, the findings from self-selecting studies have larger possibilities of producing slightly bias results.

2) Xiaoxue Li, Jacob M. Vigil, Sarah S. Stith, Franco Brockelman, Keenan Keeling, Branden Hall. The effectiveness of self-directed medical cannabis treatment for pain. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2019; 46: 123 DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.07.022

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