Using cannabis to treat migraines may have a painful consequence

Cannabis products have become a popular treatment option for migraine sufferers, but the temporary relief may be joined by rebound headaches, according to a new study. The preliminary research was recently published by the American Academy of Neurology and is set to be presented in mid-April. The findings are based on data from 368 chronic migraine sufferers.

Of the 368 people whose data was used in this new study, 150 reported using cannabis to treat their migraines. After evaluating the data, the researchers found that cannabis users were six times more likely than non-users to experience medication overuse headaches, also known as rebound headaches.

This was a retrospective study, which was a limitation, but the findings pave the way for future longitudinal studies. The findings indicate that cannabis may not be an adequate solution for treating migraines. Cannabis, as with opioids, has been linked to a part of the brain also associated with migraines: the periaqueductal gray.

Study author Niushen Zhang, MD, said:

Many people with chronic migraine are already self-medicating with cannabis, and there is some evidence that cannabis can help treat other types of chronic pain. However, we found that people who were using cannabis had significantly increased odds of also having medication overuse headache, or rebound headache, compared to people who were not using cannabis.

This new study joins one from Washington State University, which found that inhaled cannabis products could significantly reduce migraine and headache pain. The data was self-reported in real-time during the migraine, however, and the research didn't include any details about whether rebound headaches were experienced later on.