D54: options in cannabis for treating headaches

Cannabis and Headaches: A Comprehensive Guide to Treatment Options and Methods of Administration

Headaches can be broadly categorized into various types such as tension-type headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches, with some overlapping symptoms and triggers. The treatment options range from over-the-counter (OTC) medications to prescription drugs that come in various forms including nasal sprays, pills, and topicals. In the burgeoning field of medical cannabis, there are multiple options available in terms of products, onset times, and duration of action.

Types of Headaches and Overlaps

  1. Tension-Type Headaches: Typically a dull, aching pain, often described as a tight band around the head.
  2. Migraines: Characterized by severe throbbing pain usually on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea and light sensitivity.
  3. Cluster Headaches: Extremely painful headaches occurring in clusters or cyclical patterns.
  4. Overlaps: It’s possible for an individual to experience characteristics of more than one type of headache simultaneously, making diagnosis and treatment more challenging.

Existing Treatment Options

OTC Treatments
  1. Ibuprofen: Often used for tension-type headaches.
  2. Acetaminophen: Suitable for mild migraines.
  3. Aspirin: Commonly used for various types of headaches.
Prescription Treatments
  1. Triptans: Available as a nasal spray or pill, these are often used for migraines.
  2. Corticosteroids: Often used for cluster headaches, available in pill form.
  3. Ergots: Used for migraines, available in pill and nasal spray forms.

Cannabinoid Options

  1. THC Products: Euphoric, available in tinctures, vapes, and edibles. Faster onset but shorter duration. Generally used for rescue.
  2. CBD Products: Non-euphoric, available in oils, topicals, and pills. Slower onset but longer duration. Used more for prevention.
  3. THC-CBD Combination: Balanced effects, available in various forms.

Comparison Table

Treatment OptionType of HeadacheMethod of AdministrationOnset TimeDuration of Action
IbuprofenAll typesPill15-30 mins4-6 hours
AcetaminophenMild MigrainePill15-30 mins4-6 hours
TriptansMigraineNasal Spray/Pill15 mins2-4 hours
THC ProductsAll typesVapes/Edibles2-10 mins2-3 hours
CBD ProductsAll typesOils/Pills30-60 mins6-8 hours
THC-CBD ComboAll typesVarious15-30 mins4-6 hours

Interactions and Precautions

While cannabinoids have shown promise in treating headaches, they can interact with certain medications like blood thinners and antipsychotics. Those with liver disease, cardiovascular issues, or pregnant women should also exercise caution when considering cannabinoids for headaches. For personalized, evidence-based care, contact Dr. Caplan at CED Clinic.

Important Caveat on Headaches and Treatment

While headaches are often benign and may be managed effectively with over-the-counter remedies or prescribed medications, it’s crucial to recognize that they can sometimes be symptomatic of a more serious or complex medical condition. In rare cases, headaches can indicate severe issues such as intracranial hemorrhage, tumors, or other life-threatening conditions. Therefore, medication—whether it’s over-the-counter or prescribed—should never be initiated or altered without the guidance of a knowledgeable healthcare provider. A qualified medical professional can perform the appropriate diagnostic tests and evaluations to distinguish between benign headaches and those that might be indicative of more serious underlying issues. Consulting with a healthcare provider ensures that you receive accurate diagnosis and appropriate, safe treatment.


  1. Russo, E. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 4(1), 245–259.
  2. Rhyne, D. N., Anderson, S. L., Gedde, M., & Borgelt, L. M. (2016). Effects of Medical Marijuana on Migraine Headache Frequency in an Adult Population. Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy, 36(5), 505–510.
  3. Baron, E. P. (2018). Medicinal Properties of Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids in Cannabis, and Benefits in Migraine, Headache, and Pain: An Update on Current Evidence and Cannabis Science. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 58(7), 1139–1186.
  4. Andre, C. M., Hausman, J. F., & Guerriero, G. (2016). Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7, 19.
  5. Dodick, D. W. (2018). Migraine. The Lancet, 391(10127), 1315–1330.
  6. Robbins, M. S., Starling, A. J., Pringsheim, T. M., Becker, W. J., & Schwedt, T. J. (2016). Treatment of Cluster Headache: The American Headache Society Evidence-Based Guidelines. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 56(7), 1093–1106.

Special Note

If you have specific medical conditions or diagnoses that could interact adversely with cannabinoids, it is crucial to consult with healthcare experts. Dr. Caplan at CED Clinic offers specialized, thoughtful care for such cases.

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