I am a scientist at a medical school, studying basic cancer research. I suffer from severe migraine attacks. My first attack of migraine occurred four years ago when I was a doctoral student at another university, and was the most frightening experience of my life. I was overcome first by flickering light patterns in my vision, which expanded to almost completely obscure my sight. This coincided with a shortness of breath and strange feeling of discomfort. About an hour later, I had the worst headache of my life, and I began to throw up uncontrollably every fifteen to twenty minutes. This continued all night, and then I found myself slurring my speech, and strangely unable to speak certain words. At this point my wife called for an ambulance and I was taken to the emergency room.
The doctors were convinced the symptoms were due to a brain aneurysm and had a neurosurgeon ready to operate. However, after a CAT scan, PET scan, MRI and spinal tap, they determined it was in fact a rare form of migraine. I spent two days in the hospital on an IV recovering fluids lost from vomiting.
These migraine attacks have continued to occur three to five times a year ever since. About half of my migraine attacks are severe enough that I must spend the night in the hospital getting rehydrated by IV, and given very powerful narcotics such as morphine or Demerol. Under my doctor's care, I tried every legally available migraine and anti-nausea drug including Fiorinal, Cafergot, Imitrex [sumatriptan succinate], Compazine, and Reglan. None had any effect at all on my symptoms. Some of the legal drugs my doctors have given me are quite dangerous, occasionally causing a patient's death after a single dose! (Imitrex).
After reading about chemotherapy patients using marijuana to treat similar sounding nausea, I tried smoking it as a treatment during an attack of migraine. Amazingly, it alleviated my symptoms, particularly the nausea, but the headache pain as well. Smoking a fairly small amount, I threw up only twice during the entire migraine, and was even able to go to sleep until it was over. I was able to stay at home during the migraine, rather than stay in the hospital, and I was even able to return to work the following day. After four years of trying treatments without success, it is a huge relief to finally have something which helps.
I went to see a neurologist soon afterward to report my experience. He ignored everything I said about the marijuana and suggested that I try for a second time one of the dangerous migraine drugs which had failed to help me before. Instead, I looked through the medical literature and found that there were scientific studies supporting my experience. In fact before it was banned, cannabis had been recommended by doctors as the preferred treatment for migraine. I hope that the federal government will approve studies of marijuana for treatment of migraine, so that in the future people won't have to suffer for years as I did before finding a treatment.
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