Updated on January 29, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are an easily accessible treatment for migraines. But, they don’t always work ideally for patients dealing with chronic, severe migraines. If you can’t or don’t want to use opioids and other strong medications, you really don’t have another option for your treatment — or do you?
With the rising awareness of medical marijuana as a safer painkiller, many patients dealing with migraines try cannabis medicine instead. Learn how NSAIDs and medicinal cannabis compare, as well as how the latter could be a better option for you.
You’ve probably seen NSAIDs on many stores’ shelves. Most come in the form of over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. Some NSAIDs can be prescribed, but these drugs still only offer moderate pain relief at best. As their name implies, NSAIDs reduce inflammation in the body. They also help with pain and fever.
Like the term “NSAID,” the term “medical marijuana” refers to a group of medicines instead of just one medication. While you may think all medicinal cannabis products are the same, that idea couldn’t be further from the truth.
Cannabis medicine comes in different formulas, concentrations and dosages that suit all sorts of patients and conditions. Plus, we have plenty of research showing marijuana can relieve pain and inflammation just as well as — or better than — standard painkillers.
Overall, NSAIDs tend to be a milder type of drug, but they can still cause more harm than good. If you use NSAIDs carefully and infrequently, you might not have to worry about too many adverse effects. But, even when someone takes an NSAID once, they can experience serious side effects like:
Meanwhile, cannabis medicine effectively relieves migraines and other types of pain without damage to your organs. It generally causes mild side effects, such as dry mouth and red eyes. If you experience one of these side effects, you can often try a different kind of medical marijuana to avoid them. Cannabis medications have a full spectrum of formulas with varying effects.
For people who have mild and occasional migraines, NSAIDs might be enough to get by. But, when you have chronic and severe migraines, you don’t have the luxury of taking a mild painkiller every now and then. Migraines can be frequent and debilitating, and an NSAID just won’t cut it in many cases.
When this happens, some patients must take prescription drugs or get shots that can have dangerous side effects. A common kind of migraine treatment, triptans, can actually cause headaches as an adverse effect.
Medical cannabis, on the other hand, not only relieves pain more efficiency than NSAIDs do, but it also tackles other migraine symptoms. It works as a painkiller and antiemetic at the same time. Research suggests medical marijuana can also reduce the frequency of migraines or eliminate them altogether. So, cannabis medicine not only does NSAIDs’ job better, but it also takes the place of other drugs you might take for migraines.
As you can see, medical marijuana works as a powerhouse against migraine symptoms. It comes in more forms than just pills and syrups, making it more flexible than NSAIDs. While NSAIDs can damage your stomach and other organs, medicinal cannabis doesn’t cause any long-term harm. In addition to offering these benefits, it works even better than pharmaceuticals to relieve multiple migraine-related issues at the same time.