STEM Shoutout: Dr. Sarah Stith

UNM economics professor publishes paper on effects of cannabis for medical treatments

Dr. Sarah Stith, an assistant professor at UNM’s Economics Department, published in mid-July a paper on Cannabis effectiveness to treat headaches in the Journal of Integrative Medicine. 


Stith’s research generally focuses on examining the efficiency and equity effects of health care regulation and spillovers from and to related markets, including cannabis.


The article, “Alleviative effects of Cannabis flower on migraine and headache,” studied the effectiveness of using dried Cannabis flowers for treatment of headache- and migraine-related pain and the associations between different product characteristics and changes in symptom intensity following Cannabis use.


Dr. Jacob M.Vigil, associate professor at UNM’s psychology department, was also a co-author in the paper.


Stith began collaborating with the Releaf app developers who developed data that they used in several papers, e.g.,“The effectiveness of self-directed medical cannabis treatment for pain.”


The Releaf App is an app that enables people to anonymously track real-time and historic experiences with specific cannabis and CBD products. It makes it easy to track across uses and over time the cannabis product someone is using, where they purchased it from, why they are using it, relatively how much they used, as well as symptom relief, feelings, and side effects they experienced.


“Publishing is good for our career, but we have been trying to do a public service aspect too,” Stith said. “Despite many states legalizing cannabis, we still know very little about its effects, making our research of immediate relevance to the general public.”


The paper suggests that whole dried Cannabis flowers may be an effective medication for treatment of headaches, but the effectiveness differs according to characteristics of the Cannabis plant, the combustion methods, and the age and gender of the patient.