According to estimates, up to nine million people in Germany suffer from migraines. Women are affected more often than men. Although migraine is one of the most common neurological diseases, its causes are not yet fully understood.
By definition, migraine is a type of headache in which there is a temporary functional disorder in the brain. This results in increased nerve excitability. In addition, more pain-triggering neurotransmitters are released in the brain, so that the vessels in the brain temporarily become inflamed.
The symptoms of migraine are expressed by an attack-like, pulsating and often hemiplegic headache. Often, sufferers also experience vegetative symptoms such as nausea/vomiting and sensitivity to noise or light.
About 15 per cent of sufferers also suffer from an aura phase, which occurs before the actual headache. In a few cases, there is no headache after the aura phase. Symptoms in the aura phase include flashes of light, double vision, blinding sensations, visual field defects, speech disorders and/or motor disorders. Perceptual disturbances are also possible, such as disturbances of the sense of colour or a magnification/reduction of objects.
Migraine: treatment and therapy options
According to the German Neurological Society (DGN) and the German Migraine and Headache Society (DMKG), painkillers such as ibuprofen, ASA, naproxen and diclofenac are effective for mild and moderate migraine attacks.
Triptans are used for severe migraine attacks, but their use is often accompanied by unpleasant side effects.
In the search for new treatment options, cannabinoid-containing medicines have increasingly become the focus of scientific attention in recent years. Various studies suggest that cannabinoids, especially cannabidiol (CBD) could be helpful in acute migraine attacks. This assumption is also supported by various experience reports and surveys.
New survey among migraine patients
Researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder (USA) conducted an online survey with 161 migraine patients who have legal access to cannabis. The aim of the survey was to investigate the pattern of cannabis use and the associated improvement in migraine.
Seventy-six per cent of participants endorsed the use of cannabis to treat their migraines and 70 per cent of participants used over-the-counter painkillers as well as triptans in addition to cannabis.
The results state that migraine patients who used cannabis reported more severe attacks compared to patients who did not use cannabis. Compared to painkillers, cannabis was significantly more effective, according to the participants.
In the end, the researchers state that migraine patients experience a high degree of symptom relief through the use of cannabis. Future studies are needed to determine the cannabis forms, potencies and dosages that are most effective in treating migraines, they say.
Gibson LP, Hitchcock LN, Bryan AD, Bidwell LC. Experience of migraine, its severity, and perceived efficacy of treatments among cannabis users. Complement Ther Med. 2020 Nov 20;56:102619. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102619. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33227352.