Migraines: How I Got off Pain Meds & Found Relief With Cannabis

by Pamela Hadfield

Have you ever considered using cannabidiol (CBD) for chronic pain relief? I didn’t. Sure, I read some stuff in the news about marijuana’s awesome healing properties, but to be honest I always thought that it was a bunch of BS. I pictured myself smoking a big spliff, getting really paranoid, feeling out of my head and still having a seriously bad migraine. Oh, and going to bed and not sleeping because I’m spinning and, did I say it before, so incredibly PARANOID. Not my happy place.

My perception of medical marijuana was way off base. There are multiple different types of cannabinoids within the cannabis plant, and CBD is almost exclusively used for medical relief. CBD, unlike its twin sister-from-a-different-mister tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), doesn’t get people high or stoned. Based on a personal friend’s recommendation, I ended up trying CBD for migraine pain relief, and to my great surprise, it worked.

If this is of interest to you, then you should read on, because this is my story of how I got off Vicodin and started using CBD to manage chronic pain caused by crazy, intense migraines.

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More Than 2 Dozen Years of Intense Migraine Symptoms

I’ve had migraine headaches since I was 14. Head-splitting, painful whoppers that can leave me in bed for days. The first time I had a migraine, I was swimming a 100-meter race on the high school swim team. I nearly won (almost), but when I got out of the pool, I actually fell to the ground. I was struck by migraine lightning that left me blinded, vomiting and out of my head for the next 12 hours. That was the start of it all.

For the last 25 or so years, it’s been much the same, although I learned that hormonal spikes most often cause migraines along with stress, diet, lack of exercise as well as other triggers. Getting pregnant? A really bad idea if you get hormonal migraines. Several pregnancies later, I found my headaches were as bad, if not worse, than in adolescence. So was my mood.

When you feel chronic pain this badly, I believe most people are willing to do just about anything to get pain relief (I’m included in that group). This led me to try out a barrage of drugs to find a cure (by the way, there isn’t one unless you consider cutting off your head) and/or something that might provide significant pain relief.

RELATED: BEST CBD STRAINS FOR MIGRAINES

Treating My Migraines With Imitrex & Vicodin

Yoga, Pilates and CrossFit helped me. Other than drugs, adding more exercise to my weekly routine and making a significant change in my diet, including dropping gluten and soy, helped alleviate the worst kinds of migraine headaches. That is semi code for the migraines that blind you and give you the dreaded-dotted-panic-attack-inducing aura. That said, no matter what changes I made, a migraine still seemed to rear its ugly head. Enter migraine treatment with narcotics and heavy-duty migraine medications such as Imitrex.

For the most part, I found the migraine meds like Imitrex too debilitating. I ended up foggy, drooling and practically comatose in bed, unable to do much, but still with a nagging pain in the gulliver. Vicodin is a combination of the narcotic hydrocodone and non-narcotic pain reliever acetaminophen. On a monthly basis, I found that taking Vicodin at the onset of a migraine headache helped to both stop it from getting worse while also giving significant pain relief with minor side effects.

Finding pain relief with Vicodon was fantastic, but it also had a significant downside. I started snacking Vicodin on a monthly basis —roughly in the neighborhood of two to eight pills per month. It’s important to note that the DEA now classes Vicodin as a Schedule 2 drug, which means that it has a high potential to be abused and for people to become dependent on it. In August of 2014, the DEA changed the regulations around Vicodin and moved it into the same class as Oxycontin, Percocet and Codeine. As a result, physicians have been far more careful when prescribing Vicodin. Honestly, it’s understandable as the doctors now need to watch their own backs based on the new DEA regulation.

Laws changed around Vicodin due to the fact that some seven million Americans seem to adore it as well as other prescription meds; they’re addicted to them and love to Rush Limbaugh (yes, that’s a gross, fat verb I coined). Fortunately, I never had an issue with Vicodin addiction, but it really bothered me that I was so heavily reliant on a narcotic. It seemed so, well, dependent. It was also far less convenient trying to get a prescription as well.

My Introduction to Migraine Treatment With CBD

About a year ago, a friend suggested that I try a CBD mouth spray for my headaches. I was all ears, as she told me that it not only provided her with pain relief, but she was able to fully function; it didn’t make her tired, and she found it a more natural way to medicate. It had seriously never occurred to me that people weren’t necessarily smoking their medicine nor were they getting high.

CBD and THC are two of the most prevalent compounds found in cannabis. There are over 60 other compounds that also make up the marijuana plant. THC is the psychoactive component and is what gets people high, which for some is great.

CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and does not affect our CB1 brain receptors in the same way as THC. Both THC and CBD have many of the same medical advantages, but each person reacts differently. For me, THC is like kryptonite. My system simply can’t handle it; I short circuit.

Get to Know CBD

I was never much into chemistry, but the difference with CBD from THC is that THC is perfectly shaped to bind to our CB1 receptor, whereas CBD doesn’t—hence no psychoactive effects. CBD is now finally coming into the limelight due to its remarkable properties. CBD has been shown to:

  • relieve pain
  • fight cancer
  • prevent diabetic neuropathy
  • protect nerves
  • reduce nausea and vomiting
  • suppress seizures
  • combat anxiety
  • alleviate inflammation in the body

And the list goes on and on. This is me screaming from the top of my work desk, IT ALSO STOPPED THE PAIN CAUSED BY MY MIGRAINES with zero gnarly side effects!

RELATED: TOP 6 WAYS TO CONSUME CBD

Another interesting thing to note about CBD is its unique ability to work in conjunction with THC. CBD is able to stop the negative effects that may be felt from ingesting too much THC. In effect, CBD can reduce any overly intense psychoactivity caused by THC—so if your little brother smokes too much cannabis and locks himself in the broom closet, you give him CBD. It is like Freeze Miser meeting Heat Miser, and Mother Nature stopping the argument so Christmas can go on (excuse the cult TV special cultural reference).

As a result, you’ll see many products that use ratios of 1:1 CBD to THC, or always greater CBD to THC ratios. The ratio of THC to CBD is very important for the relief you want to feel and your tolerance for the psychoactivity inherent to THC.

All that said, I’ll leave the topic of ratios and dosage for another posting. If you’re like me, and have a highly negative sensitivity to THC, talk to your doctor as well as a reputable dispensary before buying and trying any new product. If you’re in the San Francisco area or Las Vegas, I highly recommend visiting The Apothecarium as the staff is friendly and very knowledgeable and can readily help with recommendations.

So to wrap it up, if CBD worked for me, it may also work for you. This story is one of the reasons we started HelloMD. We saw there was a great need for people to gain access to medical cards so they might be able to purchase medical marijuana legally. We advocate for people to try medicinal marijuana for medical needs whether they be small or large, because in our opinion it offers a viable, relatively safe medical alternative to the drugs developed by Big Pharma.

If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it's easy, private and 100% online.