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Medicinal cannabis and migraine – “It allows me to live a full life”

Joe* shares how medical cannabis has been ‘life-changing’ for managing symptoms of vestibular migraine.



Joe* speaks to Cannabis Health about how his prescription has enabled him to live a full life despite the debilitating symptoms brought on by vestibular migraines. 

Joe, 29, began experiencing vestibular migraines whilst at university. Sometimes they would last for months at a time and leave him unable to get out of bed, regularly forcing him to take time off work.

A vestibular migraine is a type of migraine that, alongside a headache, causes vertigo, dizziness and/or balance problems and patients may also experience nausea and sensitivity to light, sound and movement. 

Having tried many different treatments over the years, all of which failed to get his symptoms under control, it was Joe’s mum who suggested he try medical cannabis, which he says has been ‘life-changing’. He was even well enough to visit Ukraine on an aid mission recently, something which wouldn’t have been possible before.

To mark Migraine Awareness Week, Joe shared his experience as a medical cannabis patient so far. 

CH: Can you tell me about how things were with your condition before you started taking cannabis medicinally? What was your quality of life like?

Joe: My condition was fairly off and on, I guess relating to what was going on in my life at the time. I was unable to work or to really leave the house for months at a time, and once that ball started rolling I’d get so stressed by not being able to work, and depressed/anxious by not being able to do much, that my condition would get worse. 

I tried quite a few different treatments, some of which helped for a short while but either the efficacy would wear off or the side effects would outweigh the benefits. This was over a period of around seven years, and I’d say my quality of life was extremely low. It wasn’t until I’d been taking medical cannabis for a little while and had had relief for an extended period that I realised just how bad my life before had been.

CH: Can you tell me about how being prescribed cannabis has impacted your day-to-day life?

Joe: The medication has been totally life-changing and has allowed me to live a full life. The prescription plays a big part in that. Not only does it give me a certain amount of peace of mind around accessing and taking the medication but also in how I take the medication. Without the prescription and different options that medical cannabis offers, I would likely only be taking my medication in the evenings. But with correct guidance and information, and medication options, I am able to have relief throughout the day without any negative effects such as drowsiness. 

READ MORE: How to access a medical cannabis prescription in the UK: step-by-step

CH: You recently visited Ukraine on an aid mission, what does it mean to be able to do things like that now?

Joe: It was an incredible trip and I met some of the most amazing people in the world. It’s very difficult to describe what it means to be able to do things like this. Taking medical cannabis has given me the opportunity to do things that I would just not have been able to do before.

There were often times in the past where I would have to cancel social events, or not be able to play in sports fixtures, all of which I can now do with confidence. Another good example, if I went for a run or a bike ride, I wouldn’t ever go too far from home out of anxiety from having a migraine and being in a dangerous position, so I’d just ride around a short loop many times. I’d found a way to cope but it was far from ideal.

CH: Have you experienced any stigma, or had any issues in being open about your medication in society?

Joe: I have been extremely fortunate so far in my medical cannabis journey, at least compared to others, but not without issue. 

I’ve worked with my employers to find a solution that was acceptable to both in terms of taking my medication and everyone would agree that my performance at work has improved. 

From my own peer group, I have not experienced any issues around my medication. However, for older generational friends and family it is a novel concept which they are coming to terms with. Their preconceived ideas of the stigma surrounding the medication and how it would affect me is something I have worked hard to change.

I want to raise awareness so that the public at large have an understanding that this medication is now recognised as something that, taken correctly, is capable of treating a range of illnesses where other medications have not been successful. Educating the wider public would remove the stigma associated with medical cannabis, allowing people to take it without fear and repercussions.

CH: What do you find challenging as a medical cannabis patient?

Joe: The UK is still in the early development stages of offering medical cannabis to patients. In the year I’ve had my prescription things have advanced with new medicines coming to the market. Something I think that is often overlooked is the importance of educating our prescribers around the different medications. I have been lucky as through Sapphire Clinics, I have a clinician who has a good understanding of the medicines available.

*Joe’s name has been changed to protect his identity. 

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