We’re likely all familiar with the common side effects that come from smoking marijuana (i.e. cottonmouth and the munchies). What’s less talked about, however, is getting a splitting headache after smoking (or otherwise ingesting) pot. While there is minimal evidence available on the matter, some cannabis users do in fact report getting terrible headaches after smoking weed.
In this article, we examine whether or not cannabis can cause headaches, and what you can do to avoid suffering from post-toke migraines in the future.
The Mythical Cannabis Hangover
If you’ve ever gone overboard and smoked a little more than you should have, you will understand exactly what we mean by the term ‘cannabis hangover.’ Simply put, it’s a terrible headache after smoking weed.
In a general sense, we know from years of research that cannabis is a non-toxic plant; unlike alcohol or other drugs, there has never been a reported case of overdose or death from consuming cannabis.
Thus, a headache after smoking marijuana rarely compares in intensity to the hangover that results from drinking too much alcohol. That being said, a “marijuana migraine” is an actual physiological phenomenon that involves vasoconstriction of tiny blood vessels in the brain. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Weed Headaches and the Myth Behind Cannabis and Dehydration
It’s well known that one of the main causes of headaches is dehydration. Given the presence of cottonmouth (dry mouth) after smoking, it’s also assumed that cannabis can result in dehydration,
But how true is this? Can smoking cannabis really result in a dehydration-induced headache or migraine?
Based on available studies, there is no evidence that cannabis causes dehydration. Many people attribute dry mouth, or ‘cotton mouth’ to dehydration, but this is inaccurate. Studies have shown that actually, cottonmouth has to do with a lack of saliva as a result of temporarily disabled salivary glands in the mouth.
With that in mind, what else is there to explore when it comes to marijuana and headaches?
The Facts About Cannabis and Headaches
The truth is, there are many more studies that actually show marijuana as an effective solution for the treatment of headaches and migraines. A study published in 2016, for example, showed that across 121 adult migraine sufferers, the occurrence of migraines was more than halved after the consumption of cannabis.
In another study from 2017, authors observed that patients reported fewer migraines per month after cannabis use.
Here are some additional statistics published in the aforementioned studies:
- Cannabis reduced the average number of migraines from 10.4 per month to 4.6 per month
- Approximately 85% of the participants reported having fewer migraines per month after using marijuana
- Only 12% of the 121 participants said cannabis did not produce a change in the frequency of their migraines
Researchers from the 2016 publication (see link above) remarked that “most patients used more than one form of marijuana, and used it daily for [the] prevention of migraine headache.” They also concluded that “inhaled forms of marijuana were commonly used for acute migraine treatment, and were reported to abort migraine headache.”
What Can You Do to Combat a Headache Caused by Weed?
While there is no evidence for the argument that cannabis itself brings about headaches, it is possible that other factors related to smoking marijuana can contribute.
The best thing you can do to prevent a weed headache is to drink water. As long you drink plenty of water before, during, and after smoking, you can almost guarantee you won’t get a headache after smoking cannabis.
That being said, if you’re smoking outside and end up getting stoned and passing out in the sun for several hours, that can definitely cause a vicious headache. UV light from the sun’s rays quickly dehydrates the body’s cells, and this will 100% result in you getting dangerously dehydrated.
The munchies can also indirectly instigate a weed headache if you eat too many salty snacks while you’re high. Like the sun, salt will also quickly dehydrate you by drawing water from your body’s cells in order to correct the ionic imbalance that’s brought on by the consumption of excess salt. This can be a problem whether you’re getting high indoors or out in nature.
Again, however, the solution here is pretty simple: stay hydrated!
Final Thoughts on Marijuana and Headaches
While there may not be evidence of cannabis causing headaches, you can definitely find yourself on the receiving end of a wicked migraine after smoking weed if you let yourself become dehydrated. While cannabis itself is not the main reason for those ‘weed hangover’ symptoms (headaches included), it can definitely be an instigating factor.
So to summarize and answer the question of “why does my head hurt when I smoke weed,” just know that your headache isn’t a direct result of the weed. Headaches can occur as the result of a number of things, but too much cannabis is not likely one of them.
Staying hydrated and using common sense while enjoying marijuana will be enough to avoid headaches 99.9% of the time. Marijuana does not cause dehydration, and furthermore, it is not conclusive that a headache after weed is caused by the cannabis itself.
So for those who are concerned about headaches after smoking a joint, perhaps consider what other factors might be at play!