We’ve likely all heard of some of the side effects that are possible when smoking marijuana. What is less talked about, however, are some of the milder symptoms that occur from periodic cannabis consumption.
While there is minimal evidence currently available on the matter, many cannabis users report headaches after smoking weed. Is it possible for the two to be connected in a physiological sense?
In this article, we take a look at the facts in order to try and answer this question. Can cannabis cause headaches, or are other factors at play? Here is all you need to know and more.
The Weed Hangover
If you have ever smoked a little more than you should have, you will probably understand exactly what we mean by the term ‘weed hangover.’ For those who are less in the know, let us explain.
Most of us have been there; a quiet night in with a few drinks turns into an over-indulgent party full of fun and far too much alcohol. You wake up the next day feeling miserable, with a terrible headache after smoking weed and an intense nausea from the alcohol.
Sound familiar? Well, there are many cannabis users out there that claim marijuana can do the same thing in terms of resulting in a wicked headache.
While not scientifically proven, many marijuana enthusiasts report telltale symptoms of a hangover the day after a heavy smoking session. And yes – along with things like fatigue, dry eyes, brain fog, and nausea, severe headaches are a common side effect that one might experience after heavy use.
In a general sense, we now know from years of research that cannabis is a non-toxic plant. Unlike alcohol, which can be extremely dangerous (and even lethal in high doses), there has never been a reported case of overdose or death by consuming cannabis.
Thus, even if these mythical weed hangovers were a real physiological thing, they would not compare in intensity to the hangover that results from drinking too much alcohol. Furthermore, even if we could objectively define the symptoms that result from a weed hangover, the effects would likely be greatly diluted in comparison to the physiological effects that excess alcohol has on the body.
But, is it possible that weed does, in fact, cause a migraine? Or, to a less severe extent, does it make physiological sense to get a headache after weed? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Weed Headaches: The Myth Behind Cannabis and Dehydration
It’s well-known that one of the critical causes of headaches is dehydration. But is dehydration a result of cannabis?
The evidence on cannabis usage and dehydration is inconclusive and warrants further study. Many people attribute dry mouth, or ‘cotton mouth’ to dehydration, but this is inaccurate. Studies have shown that actually, cottonmouth has to do with lack of saliva and the way that cannabis interacts with the body – namely the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system.
With that in mind, what else is there to explore when it comes to marijuana and headaches (informally known as a weed headache)?
The Facts About Cannabis and Headaches
Among the misinformed claims that cannabis can bring about a killer headache, are the many studies done on marijuana as an effective treatment for headaches and migraines.
A study published as recently as 2016 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 of the published statistics from the studies:
- The average number of migraines reduced from 10.4 per month to 4.6
- Approximately 85% of the participants reported having fewer migraines per month using marijuana
- Only 12% of the 121 participants stated they saw no change in the frequency of their migraines
Researchers from the 2016 publication in Pharmacotherapy (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. Whether you are out in the sunshine enjoying cannabis with your friends or having a heavy smoking session inside, there are a few aspects to consider if you suffer from “after weed” headaches.
If you are going to be smoking outside enjoying the summer, remember to drink plenty of water before, during, and after smoking. While there may not be evidence of cannabis causing headaches, there is plenty of scientific evidence for the sun causing dehydration, which we know brings on headaches. Keeping on top of your fluid intake and giving yourself breaks in the shade should help to combat those pesky brain pains.
The same rule is applicable if you are getting high indoors, as it can be so easy to forget to drink! Keeping water next to you will serve as a visual reminder for those occasions where you are too intoxicated to otherwise remember to hydrate.
There are of course a few other tips and tricks, such as avoiding salty foods (which may be easier said than done once the munchies kick in!), and ensuring that you don’t overdo it.
In any case, it should be fairly clear by now that cannabis itself is not the main reason for those ‘weed hangover’ symptoms – headaches included.
Final Thoughts on Marijuana and Headaches
To summarize, the answer to the question of “why does my head hurt when I smoke weed” doesn’t necessarily involve cannabis. Headaches can occur as the result of a number of different things, but too much cannabis is not likely one of them.
Using common sense when enjoying marijuana will usually be enough to see off any headaches. Perhaps a particular strain doesn’t agree with you, or maybe you simply haven’t had enough to drink that day.
What we do know is that marijuana does not cause dehydration. 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!