SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Researchers at the University of California San Diego are launching the first-ever placebo-controlled study into the effects of marijuana on migraines.
"This has never been studied before," said Dr. Nathaniel Schuster, the lead researcher on the project.
"We want to know whether it is more effective than placebo, whether it is beneficial for the headache part of migraine, whether it's helpful for the other parts of migraine."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), migraines affect 15.3% of the U.S. population.
Studies on it have been rare because the federal government still classifies marijuana as an illegal, Schedule A drug. But marijuana is legal in California for medicinal and recreational use.
Schuster and his team spent several years working with the government to get all of the necessary approvals for a formal study. The government will also supply medical-grade marijuana.
Participants in the study will get four different doses to use on four separate headaches. They'll report their results through an app.
"The patients don't know which one is which," explained Dr. Schuster. "We'll give one of them with THC, one of them with the THC/CBD mixture, one of them with CBD, and one of them with placebo."
Dr. Schuster hopes this study will finally put some scientific data behind something that's become common practice. He says about 30% of medical marijuana users already take it to treat some form of headache.
"We know many people are doing it. Now, we're going to give doctors and patients some data so that they know whether it's effective and for what parts of migraine," Dr. Schuster said.
"I think it's great," said Dr. Jack Schrim, the co-director of the Headache Center of Southern California.
He's already referred several patients to participate in the study.
"Until very recently, the research has been lacking," he said.
Dr. Schrim says he has many patients who ask him about marijuana for their migraines. Often, he doesn't know what to recommend because there isn't enough information.
"What's really changing now is better science, better research that can help us link the understanding of the receptors for cannabinoids, which are actually within our nervous system and have evolved over hundreds of millions of years, to the possibility of treatment," he said.
People interested in participating in the study should contact Research Coordinator Phirum Nguyen directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 858-822-3108. Participants cannot already be regular marijuana or opioid users. They also must get migraines at least once per month.
This story was originally published by Jared Aarons at KGTV.