A new leaf for the treatment of migraine? UCSD Health trial examines the effectiveness of cannabis


Allison Knigge was in elementary school when she began to suffer from migraines. They got worse over time, especially after the birth of her son.

“I would describe my migraines as a piercing pain. I feel like my brain is in a hurry, ”Knigge said. “There were times when I had a pain level of 6 or higher for about 25 days a month. They have an impact on my quality of life. “

Migraines produce symptoms that are often intense and debilitating. They cause severe throbbing or throbbing headaches, usually on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea and sometimes vomiting and / or extreme sensitivity to light and sound. A migraine attack can last for hours or even days.

Knigge, who lives in Tierrasanta, said she had tried several medications over the years, but none had been able to fully manage her migraines.

“My migraines are triggered by the weather, stress and lack of sleep. When the pain is at its peak, I’m in bed all day with the lights off, ”she said. “When I have a migraine, I’m completely out of control, and it’s a challenge as a mom.”

Although several FDA-approved treatments are on the market, experts say many patients are turning to products containing cannabis tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, and / or cannabidiol (CBD), an ingredient in cannabis that is not psychoactive, to treat their migraines.

“Many patients who suffer from migraines have suffered from them for many years but have never discussed it with their doctor. Instead, they self-treat with various treatments, such as cannabis, ”said Dr. Nathaniel Schuster, pain management specialist and headache neurologist at UC San Diego Health and researcher at the UCSD Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. “Right now, when patients ask us if cannabis works for migraines, we don’t have the evidence to answer that question.”

Schuster and his team are conducting the first known, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial that examines cannabis as a potentially effective treatment for acute migraines.

About 20 participants are currently enrolled in the trial. Knigge is one of them.

“When Dr. Schuster introduced me to the trial, I decided I wanted to participate. I was at a point where I was ready to try anything that might help manage my migraines, ”Knigge said.

The goal is to recruit 90 participants to treat four distinct types of migraine attacks with four different treatments; one each with THC, CBD, a combination of the two and a placebo. The products are administered via a vaporizer.

“Vaporized cannabis may be more effective for patients who experience nausea or gastrointestinal issues with their migraines,” said Schuster, assistant professor in the department of anesthesiology at the UCSD School of Medicine.

To qualify for the clinical trial, patients must have migraine headaches every month, must not be a regular cannabis user or use opioids, and must be between the ages of 21 and 65.

“I’m proud and grateful to be part of a study that may lead to more tools in the toolkit for those of us with migraines,” Knigge said. “It could mean one more option when all the other options haven’t worked. This is really important for patients whose lives are regularly disrupted by migraines. “

Schuster said future studies will include comparing different doses of cannabinoids.

To learn more about the clinical trial and how to register, visit Clinicaltrials.ucsd.edu or contact Phirum Nguyen at [email protected] or (858) 822-3108.

– La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report. â—†


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