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Marijuana and Migraines: What You Need to Know

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In recent times, medical cannabis has gotten lots of attention for its treatment of migraines and other pains. Ironically, some people have been known to suffer from weed headaches after partaking in the same.

While there is still very minimal evidence available on this matter, the incidence of cannabis users reporting headaches after consuming weed is a cause for more study.  

A cannabis migraine usually sets in at the point where your buzz is wearing off. Tough you might be tempted to brush it off, it turns out that a weed headache or in short just “weedache” is actually a thing. 

Can there be a physiological relationship between that migraine you have and the weed you took? Is it just a coincidence?

While there’s a bagful of anecdotal evidence, some experts still theorize that these migraines are early symptoms of a “cannabis hangover”. 

We will take an in-depth look at the factors surrounding “weedaches” and explore the uses of cannabis for the treatment of migraines. 

What Causes Weed Headaches?

It is suggested that weed headaches are mostly the result of outside factors and methods of consumption as opposed to the weed itself. As a matter of fact, even mild changes in brain activity could trigger migraines.

That said, we will discuss some possible causes of a weed headache.

  • Weed Headache Due to Dehydration

 A couple of written sources claim that dehydration is a cause of migraines. This is often closely related to the “cotton mouth” experienced by most smokers. While the theory of cottonmouth being caused by dehydration has been disproved, the effect of cannabis causing dehydration in general is still a topic that is under study.

Michelle Janikina, a cannabis health writer claims “weed headaches are often just dehydration headaches that occur around the same time cannabis is consumed.”

  • The Act of Smoking

 

The presence of smoke of any kind in the lungs could cause a headache, especially if you happen to be allergic to it. Whether you are smoking massive bong rips, harsh joints or simply smelling smoke exhaled by others, these can all be a trigger for a migraine.

The effect is even worsened if you happen to be filling your lungs with combusted material. 

  • Consuming street Weed

As bad as weed smoke can be, ingesting products that contain impurities like pesticides and other contaminants could trigger a migraine. Not only will the impurities create harsher smoke, they will also irritate your system to the point of a headache. 

  • Eating Incorrectly

As smoking marijuana is sometimes considered to be a “group sport”, the activities that accompany it such as binging on processed foods like bacon, lunch meats and hotdogs could cause the blood vessels in your brain to expand causing you to have a headache. Also, some seemingly mild foods like bananas, chocolate, beans and even some citrus fruits could trigger headaches in a significant percentage of the population. 

  • High sensory stimulation

In the same breath of partying with friends; you are likely to be subjected to unusually high sensory stimulation. This includes the loud music and even louder conversations, combined with the social pressures.

  • The Weed Hangover

While this notion is not yet scientifically proven, many marijuana users report symptoms similar to a hangover that morning after an especially heavy smoking session. These “hangovers” are accompanied by the classic symptoms of dry eyes, fatigue, brain fog, nausea and severe headaches. 

It is generally accepted that cannabis is not a toxic plant, which is unlike alcohol which can turn out to be excessively dangerous. No one has ever reported overdosing or death by cannabis as far as common knowledge goes. 

This however does not rule out the incidence of these mythical “weed hangovers”. Whether they are physiological or psychological is still a topic of intense debate.

What is certain however is that whether real or imagined, they are definitely related to cannabis migraines. 

What Can You Do to Combat a Headache Caused by Weed?

As we have previously discussed, evidence to directly link cannabis to headaches might be hard to come by, but triggers surrounding the actual action of smoking weed are certainly proven. 

In this regard, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce your incidence of migraines:

  • Always ensure to take plenty of water before and after smoking weed. While direct evidence of cannabis causing migraines might not exist, dehydration in itself will very likely bring you a massive one.

Keeping abreast of your fluid intake while at the same time giving yourself breaks to rest in the shade for a healthy experience.

This is also applicable if you are smoking from indoors. Avoid huge bursts of smoke and take ample water all through your time at the “party”. Keeping a bottle of water next to you will even serve as a visual reminder for you to hydrate. 

  • Avoid salty food. This goes hand in hand in keeping yourself hydrated.
  • Consume the “right weed”. What this means is that you should consume weed that is organically grown and of the highest quality both in composition and handling. Your weed should be healthy and should burn correctly to ensure you do not take in too many impurities. Thus cannot be understated.

The best way for you to ensure this happens is by buying from trusted sources who could be a long term dealer whose products you can swear by or a home grower.

Another tip to keep those headaches at bay is to consume high CBD strains of weed. Because CBD is known to cure headaches, taking it in advance could actually even prevent you from developing headaches in the first place. 

Weed for the Treatment of Migraines.

According to “Hemp For headache: An In-depth Historical and Scientific Review of Cannabis In Migraine Treatment,” in the second millennium, Assyrian manuscripts recommended cannabis to “bind the temples”. This practice of prescribing cannabis was also practiced in ancient Greece.

In North America, until the prohibition of weed in 1937, cannabis was used to treat headaches all through the 19th-century. In fact, John Russell Reynolds, who was Queen Victoria’s personal physician, was among physicians who espoused the benefits of cannabis for the treatment of headaches.  

The Relationship Between Migraines and Cannabis

study published in 2016 showed that from a population of 121 adult sufferers of migraines, cannabis consumption halved the incidence in a specified amount of time. In another study carried out from 2017 revealed that patients reported having fewer migraines/month after they used cannabis.

 

Below are some published facts from these studies:

  • On average, migraines reduced from 4.6 a month to 1.4 
  • Of the participants, approximately 85% reported less migraines per month after they started using marijuana
  • Only 12% of 121 participants in the study indicated a total lack of effect

It was noted by the researchers in the2016 study quoted above as per a publication  Pharmacotherapy that “most patients used more than one form of marijuana, and used it daily for [the] prevention of migraine headache.” They also drew the conclusion that “inhaled forms of marijuana were commonly used for acute migraine treatment, and were reported to abort migraine headaches.”

When Is the Right Time to Dose Cannabis for Migraines?

Now that we have established that cannabis is helpful in the treatment of migraines, when is the best time to medicate? 

Is it at the point when you feel it coming on or when it’s at its peak and in full throttle?

Even though there is plenty of evidence to support the positive effects of cannabis on migraines, practical information is still insufficient. A clear guide on when, how much or even how to take this cannabis for its medicinal effect still lacks. 

It is therefore important to have this figured out before you actually select a cannabis flower. 

The ways you can use cannabis in the management of migraines is:

  • As a prophylactic. This means you take it to arrest the onset of migraines. This method triggers a relaxation of the muscles which eases stress and keeps off the migraine.
  • The treatment of the nausea and pain that accompany the nausea. This way, you take the cannabis after the migraine has started to reduce its effects. 

According to experts, the best time to take your cannabis is at the first indication of trouble. The moment you think you can feel the symptoms coming on, reach out for your dose of marijuana. This tactic will help you in the reduction or elimination of triggers as well as help you deal with the pain in its first stages before it fully manifests.

It is important to note that cannabis can be effective in both the prevention and treatment of migraines and its symptoms. That said, it’s a lot easier to control the triggers using a cannabis concentrate which can help you overcome the cluster headaches.  

What makes migraines particularly difficult to treat is that it has a complex set of triggers, symptoms and causes that differ from person to person. Because of this, migraines don’t have a “one size fits all” solution. For some patients, quelling the migraine as it starts works best while for others, total prevention could be the best approach. 

As the medical plant usually has diverse impacts, its potency could also vary. To this end, it is important that you experiment with different strains to find out which best suits you. That way, you can ensure the treatment suits your unique needs.

What’s the Most Effective Delivery Method?

The complexity of migraines makes it difficult to pick one particular method for the use of everyone. Variables such as patient preference and extenuating factors like what we have discussed above could also weigh in.

That being said, vaping could be the most ideal method of delivery as it delivers the cannabis directly into the bloodstream through the lungs. This increases its bioavailability as well as making its effects felt almost instantly. If one chooses to take cannabis orally, a lot of it gets lost in the digestion process as well as it taking a very long time to take effect.

Does Weed Cause Migraines?

In summary, if you are asking “why does my head hurt when I smoke weed?” The answer will not necessarily involve the weed itself but might be the factors that surround the weed smoking activity. Though aspects like too much consumption and “weed hangovers” come into play, smoking weed in itself accounts for a very few migraines.

Will Marijuana Cure My Migraine?

Scientists are in the process of uncovering the full potential of medical cannabis. Anecdotal reports have indicated that marijuana has a role to play in the treatment of migraines. However, it is important to consult a medical expert before trying out cannabis to relieve migraines.

 

Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.