A lot of people who have used cannabis regularly report that it has pain-relieving effects. But since cannabis has been illegal and intensely policed for such a long time, researchers have barely been able to conduct any research into its alleged health benefits. However, with more than 30 states legalizing cannabis in some form, the controversial drug is finally coming out from under the yoke of prohibition, and this has allowed scientists to take at a closer look at its medical capabilities.
A recent study, which was published in the “Journal of Pain” has confirmed what many cannabis users have known for years: marijuana has the ability to effectively manage pain. Specifically, researchers from Washington State University found that cannabis can reduce migraine and headache pain by half. On top of that, it does so without causing “overuse headaches,” which is when pharmaceutical painkillers actually worsen the patients’ headaches over time with continued use.
Led by Carrie Cuttler, an assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University, the researchers studied “big data” provided by the Strainprint app, which captured data from patients about their symptoms before and after using medical cannabis. More than 1,300 patients suffering from headaches submitted their information in real time, using the application over 12,200 times. Additionally, 650 patients with migraines also tracked changes in the severity of their conditions, using the app more than 7,400 times.
The inhaled medical marijuana, which the patients sourced from producers and distributors in Canada, reduced the migraine severity by 49.6% and headache severity by 47.3%. According to Cuttler, she and her team approached the study in an “ecological way,” looking at actual medical marijuana patients who used whole-plant cannabis to address headaches and migraines in their own homes and environments. Since the archival data provided by the Strainprint app was so immense, it allowed them the researchers to make accurate generalizations to estimate how most patients who used medical cannabis to address headaches and migraines fared.
Although they found no evidence that cannabis led to overuse headaches, which are often caused by regular use of pharmaceutical painkillers, the researchers did notice that the patients used larger doses of cannabis over time. This may be an indication that they developed a tolerance to cannabis the longer they used it and required larger doses to achieve the same effect. They also found that 90% of men reported more sessions to reduce their pain compared to 89.1% of women.
Cannabis concentrates such as cannabis oil were more effective in terms of reducing the severity of headaches and migraines compared to cannabis flower. Surprisingly, the data also indicated that the levels of THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), whether higher or lower, did not have a significant impact on pain reduction. As such, it seems that the other less-studied cannabinoids (cannabis produces more than 100 cannabinoids), as well as terpenes and other compounds, may work together and cause a positive effect on marijuana’s pain-relieving capabilities.
However, Cuttler acknowledges the WSU study had several limitations, including the fact that it used data from a self-selected group of patients and had no placebo control group, and that more research is needed. Still, the study is a step in the right direction.
As more studies uncover the therapeutic uses of different cannabis compounds, the extracts and concentrates manufactured by companies such as Pure Extracts Technologies Corp. (CSE: PULL) (OTC: PRXTF) are likely to find their way into many novel products as people look for additional ways to get their dose of medical cannabis.
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