It purports to be one of the best studies yet on the effectiveness of medicinal marijuana on major pain conditions, including migraines. The results of the study seem convincing, showing, for example, that 100% of patients using marijuana for migraines and headaches experienced relief from their pain.
But further analysis shows these results aren’t as compelling as they initially seemed.
A Patient Survey
The “study,” which was conducted by Care by Design, a medical marijuana company, promotes itself as an authoritative piece of research. It is a helpful start at trying to determine the effectiveness of a drug that has largely been banned from research in the US. But we have to treat the survey’s findings as merely preliminary.
Care by Design surveyed a total of 2495 patients who had been using medical marijuana for over 30 days. Survey responses were collected over a period of six months last year, from March to August. The survey contained relatively few questions, such as the type of condition the marijuana was being used to treat and the impact of the treatment on their pain, their mood, and overall wellbeing. The survey also asked about the ratio of CBD to THC in the marijuana they were using. CBD (cannabidiol) is largely responsible for the pain relief effects of marijuana, while THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is largely responsible for the mental effects of marijuana.
A total of 703 patients responded to the survey, with patients treating many different conditions talking about the effectiveness of their treatments. The most common conditions indicated were cancer, arthritis, and neuropathic pain, with less than 4% of people using marijuana for headaches and migraines — just 25 patients.
However, of those 25 patients, 100% did see pain reduction, though there were no ratings of relative pain reduction.
Actual Study Less Promising
Of course the survey by the cannabis retailer is going to show high-quality results. However, we don’t have to rely on this limited data, as a new scientific study published online ahead of print in the journal Pharmacotherapy reviews retrospective chart data from 121 adults with the primary diagnosis of migraines who tried marijuana after consulting with their doctors.
This study also showed positive results, but they’re much less spectacular. People using marijuana for migraine prevention saw their headache frequency drop from an average of 10.4 to 4.6. However, positive effects were only observed for just shy of 40% of patients, and nearly 12% of patients reported negative effects, such as sleepiness.
A Promising Beginning
How do we reconcile the results from these two sets of data? Easy. People who saw positive benefit from marijuana use are more likely to respond to mailed out surveys. Since the survey response rate was only about 25%, and there were only a small number of people with migraines, it’s quite believable that both populations experienced about the same results.
And it’s worth noting that although pain relief is good, it’s best to try to avoid headaches whenever possible. TMJ treatment targets the specific causes of your headaches and can stop them before they start. With fewer headaches, you’ll rely less on pain relief, of whatever form that might be. And you won’t have to worry about the side effects of marijuana, or the fact that marijuana is technically still illegal in the US.