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According to a new study out of Italy, the cannabinoids in marijuana are equally effective in preventing migraines as the pharmaceuticals available on the market today.

The findings of the study, led by Dr. Maria Nicolodi, were presented at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology this week in the Netherlands. Dr. Nicolodi and her team set out to determine if cannabinoids could not only replace existing pharmaceutical drugs used to prevent migraine attacks but also in the treatment of acute pain related to the migraines.

The belief that migraines are simply more intense headaches is categorically false. Migraines affect roughly a billion people, making them the third most common illness worldwide. In the United States, almost 40 million Americans suffer from the throbbing affliction that can last up to 72 hours. For many, migraines are accompanied by extreme light and sound sensitivity, nausea, dizzy spells, and loss of feeling in the extremities. Finding a therapeutic solution that heals without adding a laundry list of other side effects is a crucial endeavor.

Before Dr. Nicolodi’s team could administer both types of medicine to the 48 subjects, her team had to determine the proper dosage to supply for a comparable effect to existing medication on the market. Initially, researchers began the trial by issuing a 10mg (19 percent THC and 9 percent CBD) dose orally to subjects. Researchers determined that no dosage under 100mg proved successful in combating migraines. Once Dr. Nicolodi’s team raised the dosage to 200mg, patients experienced 55 percent less acute pain.

In the second phase of the study, 79 subjects with a history of chronic migraines were given one of two drugs. Some patients were given the 200mg cannabinoid compound that proved successful in the early trials of the study, while others were administered 25mg of amitriptyline, an antidepressant commonly prescribed to migraine sufferers. After three months of taking one of the two drugs each day, the patients who were taking the cannabis compound experienced a higher drop in migraine attacks than the subjects who were issued amitriptyline.

Furthermore, when the attacks did occur, the cannabinoids stifled the acute pain experienced by patients by 43.5 percent. The cannabinoid compound also showed an ability to greatly decrease the inherent side effects of migraines such as stomach aches.

Image Courtesy of Allie Beckett