Few studies to date have measured the real-time effects of consumption of common and commercially available Cannabis products for the treatment of headache and migraine under naturalistic conditions. This study examines, for the first time, the effectiveness of using dried Cannabis flower, the most widely used type of Cannabis product in the United States, in actual time for treatment of headache- and migraine-related pain and the associations between different product characteristics and changes in symptom intensity following Cannabis use.
Between 06/10/2016 and 02/12/2019, 699 people used the Releaf Application to record real-time details of their Cannabis use, including product characteristics and symptom intensity levels prior to and following self-administration; data included 1910 session-level attempts to treat headache- (1328 sessions) or migraine-related pain (582 sessions). Changes in headache- or migraine-related pain intensity were measured on a 0–10 scale prior to, and immediately, following Cannabis consumption.
Ninety-four percent of users experienced symptom relief within a two-hour observation window. The average symptom intensity reduction was 3.3 points on a 0–10 scale (standard deviation = 2.28, Cohen’s d = 1.58), with males experiencing greater relief than females (P < 0.001) and a trend that younger users (< 35 years) experience greater relief than older users (P = 0.08). Mixed effects regression models showed that, among the known (i.e., labeled) product characteristics, tetrahydrocannabinol levels 10% and higher are the strongest independent predictors of symptom relief, and this effect is particularly prominent in headache rather than migraine sufferers (P < 0.05), females (P < 0.05) and younger users (P < 0.001). Females and younger users also appear to gain greater symptom relief from flower labeled as “C. indica” rather than “C. sativa” or other hybrid strains.
These results suggest that whole dried Cannabis flower may be an effective medication for treatment of migraine- and headache-related pain, but the effectiveness differs according to characteristics of the Cannabis plant, the combustion methods, and the age and gender of the patient.