Marijuana For Cluster Headaches


Commonly known as suicide headaches, cluster headaches are a neurological disease often manifested through an immense degree of pain in the head. The term ‘cluster’ is used because these diseases tend to occur periodically. The active periods of the headache are usually interrupted by sudden reductions in pain. The aching can occur for periods as short as 15 minutes through to extensive periods as long as three hours. The pain’s suddenness and intensity differentiate it from migraines. Some versions of cluster headaches have the pain occurring on the face. Patients describe this version of the condition as electric shocks that cause a crushing and explosive sensation which they find unbearable. The pain could also occur behind the eye or around the eye region. Currently, the cause of this disease is unknown. It affects 0.1 percent of the population with men being more affected than women.

Conventional treatments

European guidelines suggest the use of a high dose of verapamil each day reduce the symptoms of cluster headaches. Verapamil blocks calcium channels. Since the cause of the disease remains unknown, the details of how this influences the occurrence of cluster headaches are still being investigated. Patients opting for this treatment method take doses as high as 240mg a day for relief.

Other medications taken for the treatment of cluster headaches include prednisolone, topiramate, and methysergide. Intravenous magnesium sulfate and melatonin have also been used as possible treatments. Treatments for common headaches such as aspirin have no effect on the pain this condition causes.

Medical marijuana as a treatment for cluster headaches

Study reports and surveys show that there is a possible benefit from marijuana on cluster headaches. More research on how cannabis affects this disease is required to establish consistent patterns. However, the results so far show that marijuana can be used as a possible treatment for the condition. This is especially so because researchers have established that one of the potential causes for cluster headaches could be an endocannabinoid deficiency. Endocannabinoids work to create a balance in the cells, tissues, and organs of living organisms by activating receptors across the system. When they are lacking, some receptors fail to be activated, and this could cause inflammation as well as a variety of diseases.

Cannabinoids present in medical marijuana affect these receptor sites the same way endocannabinoids do. That means they can be used as a replacement for low levels of endocannabinoids so as to restore balance in the body.

In one human trial, a patient who suffered from frequent cluster headaches was administered with 5 mg of dronabinol. This compound is a cannabinoid present in marijuana. It provided relief to his aches in 5 to 15 minutes of ingestion. The patient observed that though the disease did not eliminate the pain, it reduced it significantly. A report from Montefiore Headache Clinic relays the same results in one of their patients who smoked cannabis and took dosages of medical marijuana as well. Results from a study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine also observed pain relief from one of their patients who suffered from cluster headaches then smoked marijuana3.

These results show that marijuana has some potential in being used as a treatment for cluster headaches. If you have any questions about medical marijuana, please visit us.