Inhaled Cannabis Aborts Cluster Headaches, Journal Reports "Marijuana use at the onset of his headaches consistently brought complete relief within five minutes of inhalation for each attack"

Thursday, 05 March 2009

Bronx, NY: Inhaling cannabis completely relieved the pain associated with cluster headaches, according to a case study published in the journal Headache.

Neurologists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York reported that a 19-year-old patient with a cyclical pattern of cluster headaches responded favorably to smoked cannabis. The patient lacked responsiveness to numerous traditional treatments – including prednisone, sumatriptan (trade name: Imitrex), and oxycodone – but did report, "Marijuana use at the onset of his headaches consistently brought complete relief within five minutes of inhalation for each attack."

Investigators reported that the patient also received relief from the administration of five-milligram doses of synthetic oral THC (dronanabinol). They wrote, "[D]ronabinol was substituted for marijuana for acute treatment of his cluster headaches; dronabinol consistently provided dramatic relief within five to fifteen minutes of ingestion."

Researchers concluded, "We present a patient with cluster headache who was refractory to multiple acute and preventive medications, but successfully aborted his attacks with recreational marijuana use. ... The beneficial effect may be related to the high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the hypothalamus, which has been implicated as a site of dysfunction in neuroimaging studies of patients with cluster headache."

In 2007, investigators at Italy’s University of Perugia, Department of Public Health, reported that patients with chronic migraines possessed "significantly lower" levels of the endogenous cannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG) in their platelets compared to age-matched controls.

"These data support the potential involvement of a dysfunctioning of the endocannabinoid and serotonergic systems in the pathology of chronic migraine and medication-overuse headaches," they concluded.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, "Cluster attacks responsive to recreational cannabis and dronabinol," appears in Headache.