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Cannabis (Marijuana) for dizziness, nausea or headache.

Timothy C. Hain, MD

Return to Index. Page last modified: July 6, 2017

Marijuana is one of the most popular recreational drugs worldwide. As medical marijuana has become legal in many countries as well as about half of the states in the USA, it is now possible to discuss its use for treatment of common conditions such as dizziness, nausea and headache.

Cannabis is a generic term used for drugs produced from plants belong to the genus Cannabis (i.e. marijuana). Cannabis is not a single substance but rather is a mixture of up to roughly 60 compounds. Some of them, like THC, are psychoactive, and others are not.

Nausea:

THC (brand name Dronabinol) has been extensively studied with placebo controlled trials for nausea. A similar drug called Nabilone is also available. Both of these have been approved by the FDA for treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Another substance called "Nabiximol" is not currently FDA approved for nausea, but it is licensed in other countries and appears to be similar.

Headache

McGeeney (2012) suggests that anecdotal evidence suggests that they "are used" by patients for migraine, including as an abortive, and for cluster headache. Baron (2015) also suggests that there is some evidence for a good effect in migraine. As there is some evidence for an effect in chronic pain, one would anticipate a positive effect also in chronic migraine. Thus evidence is currently extremely weak.

Vertigo and Dizziness

There are presently (in 2015) no studies of cannabis for treatment of dizziness, and dizziness appears to be more of a side effect than a therapeutic target (Grotenhermen et al, 2012). Smith (2006) suggested that there are cannabinoid receptors in the central vestibular system. More studies are needed.

We have had heard from our patients that they have sometimes had a good response to a non-mind altering component of cannibis (CBD). In theory, this might be related to the anti-seizure effects of some components of cannibis. At this date (early 2017), these are just anecdotes. Products that we have been told may be helpful are "Charlotte's Web", and "Watermelon Pucks". The first is CBD oil, and can easily be ordered from the internet. The second contains some THC, and is not as readily available. As noted above, THC is approved by the FDA for treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and thus it is not surprising that "Watermelon Pucks" might be helpful in some people with dizziness. To be very clear, I am not advocating for these products, but I am simply transmitting what patients are telling me.

Legal status of cannabis in Illinois.

As of 2016, cannabis was approved for medical use in roughly 27 states. In Illinois, the Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program requires physicians to certify the diagnosis of a debilitating condition or terminal illness for a qualifying patient seeking to apply for a medical cannabis registry identification card. Whether or not a physician chooses to provide a written physician certification is up to the health care practitioner. More information is here: http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/prevention-wellness/medical-cannabis/physician-information

Qualifying conditions for cannabis in Illinois:

An individual diagnosed with one or more debilitating conditions is eligible to apply for a medical cannabis registry identification card.  The qualifying patient must obtain a written certification from a physician specifying their debilitating condition, unless they are a veteran receiving health services at a VA facility.  Veterans must submit one year of medical records from the VA facility where they receive services.  Effective January 1, 2015, the Act was amended to include eligibility for children under age 18 and to add seizure disorders to the list of debilitating conditions. On June 30, 2016, the Act was amended (Public Act 099-0519) to add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a debilitating condition and to allow persons diagnosed with a terminal illness to apply for a medical cannabis registry identification card.  The Act is effective until Jan, 1, 2020.

Qualifying patients must be diagnosed with a debilitating condition, as defined in the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, to be eligible for a medical cannabis registry identification card in Illinois.

On this list, conditions that might cause or be associated with dizziness include Arnold-Chiari, Cancer, Hydrocephalus, MS, myoclonus, and TBI. Neither migraine nor intractable nausea are included here.

Last updated August 2, 2016

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Copyright July 6, 2017 , Timothy C. Hain, M.D. All rights reserved. Last saved on July 6, 2017