LSD, ‘shrooms, psilocybin for cluster headaches

Cluster headache patients have been coming to our office in increasing numbers in the past few weeks. We seem to be in a cluster season – many patients with cluster headaches come within the same month or two and then, for several months we see very few cluster patients. Many cluster headache sufferers ask about the efficacy of LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms and seeds.

The use of hallucinogens for cluster headaches was first reported by a Scottish man in 1998. He started using LSD for recreation and for the first time in many years had a year without cluster headaches. The first report in scientific literature appeared in 2006 in the journal Neurology. Dr. Sewell and his colleagues surveyed 53 cluster headache sufferers, of whom 21 had chronic cluster headaches. Half of those who tried LSD reported complete relief.

Researchers are trying to study a version of LSD (brominated LSD) that does not cause hallucinations. This form of LSD was reported in the journal Cephalalgia to stop cluster attacks in all five patients it was given to. It is not clear if any additional studies are underway, but one American doctor, John Halpern is trying to bring this product to the market in the US.

Trying to obtain LSD or hallucinogenic mushrooms carries legal risks, including incarceration. According to Dr. McGeeney, who is an Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Medicine, it is legal to buy, cultivate, and sell seeds of certain hallucinogenic plants, such as Rivea Corymbosa, Hawaiian baby woodrose, and certain strains of morning glory seeds. However, it is not legal to ingest them.

The bottom line is that I urge my patients not to try hallucinogens because their safety has not been established. This is especially true for illicit products, which may contain additional toxic substances.

Fortunately, we do not need to resort to these agent because we have such a variety of safer and legal products. These include preventive medications, such as verapamil in high doses, topiramate, lithium, and for chronic cluster headaches, Botox injections. None of these drugs are approved by the FDA and are not likely to be approved because this is a relatively rare condition, which makes performing large studies very difficult. The only FDA-approved drug for cluster headaches is an abortive drug, injectable sumatriptan (Imitrex).

1 comment
  1. Jason Parker says: 09/24/20141:01 pm

    I have suffered from cluster headaches for 2 decades. Due to the legalities of LSD and mushrooms, I have never resorted the their use. However, in your article, you state that there are other “safer and legal products”. To be sure, they are quite legal, but safer would be a stretch. Verapamil, topiramate, and lithium sometimes do work, along with prednisone, have serious side effects (both short and long term). And I have first hand knowledge of some of the side effects. Unfortunately, these medications, along with all others I have tried, seem to be effective only a small percentage of the time (if at all). In respect to this condition, the medical industry is falling behind in comparison to the effective results offered by alternative medicine. Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame the medical industry, or doctors. The real blame falls the FDA and our government. After all, do you expect a drug company to dump millions of dollars into studies and an effective medication that yields little to no return-of-investment.

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