No More Pills: My Cannabis Story

I’m a 22-year-old female from the Pacific Northwest. I’ve suffered from migraines since I was a small child, my first documented episode at age 8. My condition for the past 14 years has been worsening, and for the last 6 years it has been chronic.

This disease has two different parts: On one side, you have the HEADACHE, which is the severe pain. On the other side you have the MIGRAINE, which are all the symptoms that aren’t the headache: visual changes, body ache, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, and fatigue. A FULL migraine day involves having the whole gambit. I get 6-10 of these a month, during which I’m home from work with my head resting on the toilet seat with the lights out for most of the day. The rest of the month is split between HEADACHE without the extra stuff days, and MIGRAINE without the headache days. If I get 5 symptom free days in a month, it was a good month.


Despite my condition (or perhaps because of it, since I spent so much time at home), I finished high school at age 13 and started college full time at age 14. My parents just happened to live 2 miles from one of the top colleges in the country, so I was able to live at home. I graduated from college at 18, but almost didn’t make it due to how much school I missed.

My family never had patience for my condition, and my parents are the kind of people that will only go to the doctor if a lot of blood or broken bones are involved (even then, it was hard to get my dad to go to the ER after he CUT OFF HIS OWN FINGER), so I’ve never had a lot of support in finding a solution for my condition. They took me to my GP, got an MRI and prescription for Imitrex, and that was the end of it.

It wasn’t until I was 18 that I discovered I have an allergy to gluten. I went gluten free and was able to reduce my FULL migraine days to once or twice a month, and my HEADACHE days to 1-2 a week. This lasted about 2 years, and then everything came back full force and my migraines became the worst they’ve ever been. I have remained gluten free.

This last spring, I went 106 days straight headache, no breaks, with full migraine 5 out of 7 days. I lost my job and was forced to withdraw from graduate school. My boyfriend, now husband, was a huge support through that time, and is helping me get the medical care I need. I’ve tried everything: antidepressants, anti-seizure, all the preventatives. At this point, I’ve been told to work as little as possible, eat and sleep as much as I can, and have been prescribed Imitrex injections since I have such a hard time keeping pills down. I hate it. They are painful, EXTREMELY expensive, and I’m incapacitated for the rest of the day.

After I was forced to withdraw from school, my husband and I took a road trip to Seattle to visit his sister. When she found me in the bathroom puking, she sent me home with a few grams of Cannabis to see if it would help with nausea and pain.

I’m not going to jump on the “miracle cure” bandwagon. I grew up in a state where Cannabis is still illegal, and any attempts to legalize it, even for medical use, are just “drug seekers infiltrating the administration.” I’ve always been cool with legalizing it for the seriously ill: cancer patients, hospice, chronic pain sufferers…

Oh wait…that’s me.

So I gave it a go.

I still tear up every time I think about the relief I felt the first night I tried it. Within 20 minutes I felt better enough to eat a full meal, and I was able to sleep through the night without getting woken up from the pain. As my system adjusted to it over the next days and weeks, my migraines became less severe. If I have a bad migraine, I can eliminate the nausea symptoms and cut the pain in half. If I manage to notice an aura before the headache begins, Cannabis STOPS THE MIGRAINE.

I still spend about half of my waking hours in considerable pain, but I’ve been able to restore my life. And when I’m medicating, even though I still have pain, the pain doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I basically forget it’s there. After being underweight my whole life, I’ve finally been able to eat enough to gain weight and get my menses back. I started a little home business teaching music lessons to kids and am pulling in $3500 a month while still having the freedom to nap between students if I need to. Weed is also considerably cheaper than traditional prescription medications, so that’s an ease on financial stress. I’m waiting to see a new migraine specialist in my area, but the wait is 3 months.

In the mean time, I feel like I have my life back. I still have the disease, but I now know that I can make plans and have a way to treat them that won’t ruin my day.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (6)
  • ScottJ
    2 years ago

    I learned about 40 years ago that different strains not only affect me differently in terms of the high, but also the medicinal properties. For instance, strains high in THC are usually not good for me when I have a throbbing head but can be okay when I have more naseua. I have tried lots of combinations. Imetrex and a small amount of cannabis that is loaded with CBD is sometimes the magic elixir for me.
    Also, I know this is not a common held feeling, but I really despise the fact that almost all cannabis strains are now hybrids. Some of the sativa strains that used to be around in the 70’s and 80’s were, IMHO, the best for migraines. Just can’t find them anymore!

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    4 years ago

    Ellizaryn,
    Thanks so much for all the info, I really appreciate it!!
    -Katie

  • mrsbell29
    4 years ago

    I appreciate you sharing your story. This is the first time I have “talked” to someone who knows EXACTLY how I feel. I am in the middle of a horrible migraine….day 4. I too use cannabis for the headaches. However, I cannot do that and work. I have missed lots of days of work. Thankfully, my boss is flexible and understands. My doctor is considering putting me on disability, as nothing seems to help. (medications,trigger point injections, etc.) I love my job, but don’t know what else to do. I am wondering if I could get some feedback from you, like Katie did. So:
    1. I hate smoking because it hurts my throat. Do you have any info on vape products, recommendations, etc? (edibles were too strong)
    2. How long did it take you (using cannabis)to notice less headaches the next day? Mine get worse as the day progresses too. I go home and take my medicine and I’m awesome….until morning or mid morning.
    3. Any other suggestions, etc that you think have helped you as far as cannabis is concerned?
    Thank you for any info you may have. As i type this, i hope i have included enough info because i just can’t think right now. I feel miserable and probably look it as well.
    Thanks so much, Carmen

  • Ellizaryn author
    4 years ago

    1) Have you tried a water pipe or bong? This helps with the sore throat. Also, smoking used to really bother me, but there is a learning curve to inhaling without it hitting the back of your throat. You DO get used to it after a while, I promise (my mom swore she would never smoke because it hurt her throat, and after about 2 weeks of smoking before bed she’s now off her migraine meds too). Don’t take may defense of smoking as a hit against vapes! There are a lot of great vapes out there, just a little spendy. It’s good in the long term to cut out the smoke. I want to get a Volcano (run about $600), my Magic Flight Launch Box was about $110 and it’s a great, discrete, battery operated vape that fits in your pocket and barely smells. You could probably easily sneak out to your car or even the bathroom at work and take a little bit. What I like about vaping is 1) It’s a MUCH cleaner high because it’s smokeless, so even if you can’t work after smoking, you may be clearheaded enough to work after vaping, 2) You can control your dosage with more precision, 3) your weed lasts longer, 4) it’s healthier (though the negative health effects of smoking high quality cannabis are minimal.

    2) I started noticing my headaches going away slowly, over 6-8 weeks. I didn’t realize how much it was helping until about 2 months into smoking. I had to go to my in-laws for a week and didn’t take any bud with me because it’s illegal in their state. I was so sick I couldn’t eat. When I got home and started smoking again, I realized how much it helps.

    3) There are two “types” of weed: Indica (the downer) and sativa (the upper). Indicas tend to be major body highs that make you sleepy and foggy in the head. Sativas tend to be “clearer” highs and are better for migraine. They help with they pain and you can usually think a lot better. There are also hundreds of hybrids in between. I go for hybrids on the sativa end of the spectrum. Before you make a judgement about whether you can work on it, try a few different strains. They are SHOCKINGLY different.

    The more you smoke, the higher tolerance you will build, and the better you will function. The first few times I smoked, I would have never dreamed of working. I was glued to the couch. I don’t often smoke before work. If I do, it’s usually just a puff or two from my vape to take the edge off, but it IS possible and I AM more productive with a little bit of THC in my system that Imatrex or the migraine by itself. I medicate heavily before sleep and then I’m usually good until late afternoon the next day. I can usually smoke heavy before bed and again about 3 or 4pm and have my migraine manageable. It never really goes away, but I’m able to live my life.

    I’m sorry you have a migraine. I do too. I hope you feel better. Let me know if you have any questions. I will respond to your post again if I think of something else that can help.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    4 years ago

    Ellizaryn,
    Thank you so much for sharing! I personally am in the process of exploring weed to treat my chronic Migraines. I have a few questions for you:
    1. Do you find that when you smoke, you have fewer Migraines the next few days?
    2. Are you taking any preventative medications on a daily basis?
    3. Is their a strain that works better for you?

    There is also a Marijuana forum on our site that you may want to visit, where you can connect with others using it for their Migraines and maybe you can answer some questions!
    http://migraine.com/topic/marijuana/#post-55441

    Thanks again for sharing!
    -Katie
    Migraine.com Moderator

  • Ellizaryn author
    4 years ago

    Hi Katie!

    Thank you for the link. Looking for a Marijuana for Migraines support group was how I found this website!

    1) Yes, when I smoke (or vape) I find that I have fewer migraines in general. I tend to wake up with headaches that get worse throughout the day. The nights that I consume right before sleep, the chances that I’ll wake up with a migraine the next day are CONSIDERABLY less. It is working as a better preventative than others I’ve tried.

    2) I have tried Topamax and Amitriptyline as preventatives. Topamax made me stupid (I had trouble doing basic math and remembering the names of coworkers I’d known for months). Amitriptyline made me a complete zombie; I couldn’t function I was so lethargic. I take Claratin-D daily April 1-Sept 30 because I believe that allergies are a trigger for me (my migraines are always worse during this period). I still use Imatrex as a rescue for when I get a particularly bad Migraine or when I’m in an environment where I can’t smoke. Even when I use Imatrex, I still try to smoke or vape with it because the cannabis helps with the nausea and will keep me from puking up the pill.

    3) My favorite strain for migraine is Blue Dream–it’s good for pain and relaxation, can help you sleep it off if you want to but doesn’t make you so sleepy you can’t function. I also really like Orange Juice–it’s good for mental clarity and ignoring the pain. I currently have both strains and mix them 50/50 in a blend my hubby and I call “Orange Dream.” It’s got the relaxing, pain relieving properties as well as a clear head high that makes it possible for me to still work work without feeling too loopy. I also sometimes mix in a little Rhino Crush, which doesn’t do a ton for pain but knocks me out fairly quickly if I need to just sleep it off.

    On a side note: I’ve also noticed that the more severe the migraine is, the less I feel “high” after I consume. If I have no migraine, or just a generic headache (there is a difference), half a gram of cannabis will leave me giggling at my sneakers and looking for hidden cameras in my toilet for the next three hours. If I have a serious migraine, the same amount of THC will dull the pain and slow my motor function slightly, but I don’t get “stoned.” I am more loopy on Imatrex than THC. It’s a very interesting phenomenon and I wonder if other people have experienced the same.

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