One in four women has had a migraine and, it turns out, the debilitating headaches affect three times more women than men.*
That stat seems astronomically high but then again, I am one of those one in four women. I first began to experience migraines after my second child was born. I chalked it up to hormones and a new job working with a company that manufactured fragranced body products. After several months and roughly 4 mind-numbingly awful migraines, I left that job only to discover that the headaches kept coming.
My Migraine Story
My migraines are the sort that are accompanied by an aura beforehand. Approximately 30-40% of migraine suffers experience the auras, which are best described as a feeling of mental fuzziness, numbness or tingling in the extremities or even flashing lights throughout your field of vision. I now think of the aura as my own personal warning system and I take it very seriously, like a tsunami alert. I know that when I have the sensation that a migraine is coming I have about thirty minutes to get myself somewhere safe to ride out the storm.
When I sought out professional help, my doctor told me to take Advil. It didn't help much. I begged and borrowed stronger medications from friends, trying Percocet and Oxycontin to alleviate the pain, but all those drugs did for me was knock me out. I needed a solution that would allow me to continue with my day. I couldn't keep losing full days to these migraines. At some point, a colleague offered me a hit off his vaporizer when I told him about my migraines. I didn't expect much but I took him up on his offer and I immediately felt relief. I wasn't 100% and it hasn't "cured" the migraines but with cannabis in the mix, I am able to cope much better.
What Was it About Cannabis That Worked For Me?
Between January 2010 and September 2014, one hundred twenty-one adults with the primary diagnosis of migraine headache who were recommended migraine treatment or prophylaxis with medical marijuana by a physician were studied in two specialty clinics in Colorado. Positive effects were reported in 48 patients (39.7%), with the most common effects reported being prevention of migraine headache with decreased frequency of migraine headache (24 patients [19.8%]) and aborted migraine headache (14 patients [11.6%]) The people who reported fewer migraines with cannabis use on average went from 10.4 headaches per month to 4.6 headaches per month.**
As Cannabis is still a schedule 1 narcotic it is pretty difficult to study the effects of the plant on various ailments. However, preliminary research is showing a correlation between cannabis use and a decrease in migraine activity and it is thought to be based on cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Cannabinoid receptors affect neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Compounds in cannabis also affect cannabinoid receptors and while migraines and their causes are still not fully understood it is believed that serotonin itself plays a role in migraines.***
If you are experiencing migraines, talk to your doctor about your options. If she is open to medical marijuana you might find some relief there - just remember to start slow and go low until you find a dose and strain that helps you feel better.