By Pat Anson, Editor
An experimental medication made from marijuana is just as effective as a widely used pharmaceutical drug in the treatment and prevention of migraine, according to two new studies by Italian researchers.
In the first study, a research team led by Dr. Maria Nicolodi found that combining two cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), in a 200mg dose reduced acute pain by 55 percent in a group of 48 migraine sufferers. The medication, which was taken orally, contained 19% THC and 9% CBD.
In a second phase of the study, researchers then gave a group of 79 chronic migraine patients either the 200 mg THC-CBD combination or a 25mg dose of amitriptyline – a tricyclic antidepressant commonly used to treat migraine.
After three months of daily treatment, researchers found that the group taking the THC-CBD combination had a 40.4% reduction in migraine attacks, which was slightly better than the amitriptyline group (40.1%).
The cannabinoids reduced migraine pain intensity by an average of 43.5 percent. Female patients also reported a decline in stomach ache, colitis and musculoskeletal pain.
"We were able to demonstrate that cannabinoids are an alternative to established treatments in migraine prevention,” said Nicoldi, who recently presented her findings at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology in Amsterdam.
Migraine is thought to affect a billion people worldwide and about 36 million adults in the United States, according to the American Migraine Foundation. It affects three times as many women as men. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can also cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound.
Previous research has also found that cannabis is effective in treating migraines. A 2016 study by the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado found that inhaled and ingested cannabis significantly reduced the number of headaches in a group of migraine sufferers. Inhalation appeared to provide the fastest results, while the edible cannabis took longer to provide pain relief.