The world’s first randomised controlled trial for cannabis as a treatment for migraine is underway in the US.
Scientists at the University of California, San Diego are conducting the first known randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial looking at cannabis as a potentially effective treatment for acute migraines.
Migraines produce symptoms that are often intense and debilitating.
They cause severe throbbing or pulsating headaches, usually on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea and sometimes vomiting and/or extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
A migraine attack can last for hours or even days.
Although there are numerous FDA-approved treatments on the market, experts say many patients are turning to cannabis products containing THC and/or CBD, an ingredient of cannabis that is not psychoactive, to treat their migraines.
Researchers are hoping this study will help give clinicians the confidence to prescribe cannabis safely.
Approximately 20 participants are currently enrolled in the clinical trial. One of them is Allison Knigge, who was in elementary school when she started to experience migraines. They continued to get progressively worse as time went on, especially after the birth of her son.
“I would describe my migraines as a piercing pain. It feels like my brain is being squeezed. It causes extreme sensitivity to light and sound and horrible nausea,” said Knigge.
“There have been times when I have been at a pain level of 6 or higher for approximately 25 days out of the month. They impact my quality of life.”
Knigge says she has tried several medications over the years, but none have been able to fully manage her migraines.
“My migraines are triggered by the weather, stress and lack of sleep. When the pain gets to peak levels, I am in bed all day with the lights out,” said Knigge.
“When I am experiencing a migraine, I am completely out of commission, and that is a challenge as a mom.”
Nathaniel Schuster, MD, pain management specialist and headache neurologist at UC San Diego Health and investigator at the UC San Diego Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research said: “Many patients who suffer from migraines have experienced them for many years but have never discussed them with their physicians. They are, rather, self-treating with various treatments, such as cannabis.
“Right now, when patients ask us if cannabis works for migraines, we do not have evidence-based data to answer that question.”
Participants who will be randomised to treat four separate migraine attacks with four different treatments; one each with THC, CBD, a combination of the two and a placebo. The products are administered via a vaporiser.
Schuster added: “Vaporised cannabis may be more effective for those patients who have nausea or gastrointestinal issues with their migraines.”
To qualify for the clinical trial, patients must experience migraines every month, must not be a regular cannabis user or use opioids, and must be age 21-65.
“I am proud and grateful to be part of a study that could lead to more tools in the toolbox for those of us who suffer from migraines,” said Knigge.
“It could mean one more option when all other options have not worked. This is truly significant for patients whose lives are disrupted on a regular basis from migraines.”
Schuster said future studies would include comparing different doses of cannabinoids.
This study is funded by the Migraine Research Foundation, to learn more visit UC San Diego Health Clinical Trials
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