The cluster headache is one understudied condition that small doses of Psilocybin may help relieve, along with other types of psychedelics known as hallucinogenic tryptamines.

Cluster headache is a condition so debilitating it's known as the "suicide headache." There is no cure for cluster headaches and no treatment exists with reliable efficacy rates. The one treatment that appears to offer effective, predictable, and long-term relief is taking small doses of psychedelics known as hallucinogenic tryptamines.

Note: While there are a few different hallucinogenic tryptamines with the potential to treat cluster headaches, we will be focusing on treating cluster headaches with Psilocybin in this article.

Exploring psilocybin for cluster headaches.

Cluster headache is a crippling condition affecting a significant portion of the population, approximately 1 in 1,000 people—yet it is often overlooked in medical research. Emerging evidence suggests that larger microdoses (typically 250 milligrams or more) of hallucinogenic tryptamines, psychedelic compounds like Psilocybin, LSA, and LSD, may offer relief for those suffering from cluster headaches.

The unbearable pain of cluster headaches.

Cluster headaches are not merely headaches; they are a form of chronic pain that can persist for months or even years. Despite being called a headache, the agony of cluster headaches far exceeds what is typically associated with just an "ache," or even a migraine.

Estimates indicate that approximately 1 in 1,000 individuals in Canada are affected by cluster headaches.

The pain experienced during a cluster headache attack is often described as one of the most severe known to medical science. Comparable to being shot in the eye multiple times a day, these attacks can last for hours and occur multiple times daily.

Such excruciating pain takes a toll not only physically but also psychologically, with a significant portion of patients reporting suicidal thoughts and engaging in self-harm during attacks.

Read: The Clinical Significance of Psilocybin for Depression

The promise of Psilocybin and (other tryptamines).

While conventional treatments for cluster headaches are limited and often ineffective, emerging research suggests that psychedelics may offer a viable solution.

Psilocybin, a hallucinogenic tryptamine found naturally in certain fungi, has shown promising results in alleviating the symptoms of cluster headaches.

LSA, another natural hallucinogenic tryptamine, and LSD, which is lab-created, also appear to be highly effective in cluster headache treatment.

Rather than taking hallucinogenic doses of Psilocybin, taking larger microdoses (around 250 milligrams of dried Psilocybin mushrooms) or even minidoses (up to 1 gram) has emerged as the optimal treatment strategy for cluster headaches.

Unlike recreational doses, these doses produce subtle effects. When administered in a controlled manner, these doses are reported to provide significant relief from cluster headache symptoms.

Clinical Research on Treating Cluster Headaches with Psilocybin

In 2006, Dr. John Halpern and Dr. Andrew Sewell reviewed reports from cluster headache sufferers, finding that over 80% reported significant relief when using Psilocybin and other tryptamines. They reported their findings to the National Headache Foundation Research Summit, and later published their study in Neurology, a peer-reviewed journal.

These results confirmed several hundred anecdotal reports of treating cluster headaches with tryptamines.

A review of these reports shows about 67% of chronic cluster headache sufferers and about 75% of episodic sufferers report significant relief. These reports were mostly collected from Internet discussion groups and online survey forms; they aren’t scientifically valid, but provide dramatic testimony that can be used to form testable hypotheses.

A preliminary 2022 study published in Headache also demonstrates that, in some cases, Psilocybin mushrooms can relieve cluster headache pain and reduce the frequency of attacks—effects that have up until now only been self-reported by the cluster headache community.

In the study, participants were randomly assigned to receive either psilocybin at a dose of 0.143 mg/kg or a placebo made of microcrystalline cellulose. They received a total of three doses, with each dose given approximately five days apart. Participants kept headache diaries for two weeks prior to the start of the study and continued for eight weeks after the first dose. Out of 16 participants who received the psilocybin, 14 were included in the final analysis of the study’s results.

After the start of the treatment, the group receiving placebo reduced their frequency of attacks/week by an average of 0.03. Those receiving Psilocybin saw their attack frequency decrease by 3.2 attacks per week. While this change was not deemed statistically significant, deeper analysis revealed that the Psilocybin treatment had varying levels of effectiveness on different types of participants.

The researchers found that despite having small effects on episodic participants, Psilocybin had large effects on chronic participants. This large effect for chronic participants persisted over the full 8-week period measured.

There is also promising ongoing cluster headache research involving a non-hallucinogenic tryptamine that can abort cluster attacks and extend remission periods. If confirmed, it could enable many more people to consider this method.

Psilocybin for cluster headaches: Protocols and theory.

Treating cluster headaches with Psilocybin and other hallucinogenic tryptamines, commonly referred to as "busting," is one way of relieving cluster headaches. Many cluster headache sufferers, affectionately called “Clusterheads,” find that small, sub-hallucinogenic doses of Psilocybin can end cluster headache cycles and prevent entire cycles from starting.

It may seem extreme to resort to hallucinogens like Psilocybin, but a cluster headache is nothing if not extreme. It’s been called the worst headache, or pain of any kind, known to medicine. It is also called suicide headache, as suicide is known as a thankfully-rare symptom. Many clusterheads facing this beast call it just that: the Beast.

Many medications are effective to some degree. High-volume pure oxygen and triptans like Imitrex injections are common for relieving individual attacks. For preventing attacks, treatments include verapamil, lithium, and steroids.

However, these options vary in effectiveness and have varying degrees and severity of side effects.

Alternatively, psychedelics like Psilocybin appear to be safer and more effective for a greater proportion of the population.

For preventative use, Psilocybin may be more effective than the above options and produces fewer side effects by far if used carefully.

For aborting attacks while they're happening, Psilocybin rivals oxygen in safety and effectiveness.

But Psilocybin, like all hallucinogenic tryptamines, is not without its dangers. These medicines are powerful drugs and must be respected. While it is not necessary to experience a psychedelic trip to treat cluster headaches, a trip remains a possibility, and one should be prepared.

There is much to learn and understand—and much to discuss with your physician—before attempting this treatment.

Below is a rundown of the compounds, protocols, and procedures being developed for future research, along with an overview of the overall experience and effects. These are not rules for treatment, but rather a discussion of ideas and experiences from those using this method with the intention of fostering further research and development.

Warning: Psilocybin is not for everyone.

  • Do not use Psilocybin if you are pregnant, they can cause miscarriage.
  • Take Psilocybin only in the proper mindset and physical setting.
  • Psilocybin has physiological effects.
  • We are not doctors. This is not medical advice.
  • Take no medication and use no treatment without consulting a physician.
  • Obtain a thorough and accurate diagnosis from a knowledgeable doctor or neurologist 
before assuming you suffer from cluster headaches.

Psychedelic Compounds Used For Cluster Headache Treatment

Psilocybin and lysergic acid amide (LSA), both in the tryptamine family of chemicals, are the most frequently used psychedelics for treating cluster headaches. LSD is another tryptamine effective against clusters, and there may be others, including a relative of LSD that causes no hallucinogenic effects – research is ongoing.

Psilocybin and LSA are both natural sources of tryptamines: Psilocybin can be found in the Psilocybe family of magic mushrooms. The seeds of certain flowering vines contain LSA.

Since most tryptamines are still criminalized in Canada, using natural sources is safer, more reliable, and avoids involvement with criminal elements.

Potential Medical Interactions & Detoxification

Unfortunately, many of the medications used to treat cluster headaches tend to interfere with the effectiveness of Psilocybin and other tryptamines. A period of “detoxification,” under a doctor’s supervision, of course, is needed to clear these drugs from the system.

Triptans like Imitrex, steroids like Prednisone, and many other medications used to treat cluster headaches can interfere with Psilocybin. Some cluster medications can unpredictably increase the psychedelic effects of Psilocybin. There are many medications where little is known, especially those taken for other conditions.

Read: The Truth About Mushrooms & Meds: Are They Safe to Mix?

Read: Is it Safe to Mix Magic Mushrooms With Antidepressants?

There are some effective treatments you can use during your “detox” period to alleviate suffering.

Breathing high levels of oxygen through non-rebreather masks is very effective. Large amounts of coffee, or taurine energy drinks drank quickly are favored emergency treatments. There are also physical coping techniques: ice packs, hot showers, cold water, hard exercise, intense sweating, and any number of strange and extreme things clusterheads do to battle the Beast.

How to Dose Psilocybin for Cluster Headaches

Clusterheads use Psilocybin depending on where they are in their cluster headache cycle.

During a cycle, many take a small to moderate dose of Psilocybin every five days or so, until the cycle stops. In some cases, only two or three doses are needed, others may find they must dose roughly once a week or every two weeks.

Better yet, before a cluster headache cycle is expected to start, some have found that taking a few small doses prevents a cycle from arriving, or greatly reduces it.

Some have even had success using small doses to stop individual cluster attacks.

For a complete guide to treating your cluster headaches with psilocybin, check out the link below.

Read: How to Treat Cluster Headaches with Psilocybin Mushrooms

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Microdosing Psilocybin Mushrooms

The Experience

Despite having slight to no effects, taking small doses of Psilocybin can be extremely effective at preventing cluster headaches, or even stopping them right in their tracks.

The idea here is to experience the maximum cluster relief with minimal chances of hallucinating. While a microdose brings subtle shifts in your cognition, creativity, and sense of well-being, a moderate Psilocybin dose of 500 milligrams (0.5 grams) and above might give you the same buzz intensity as a couple of beers, albeit a different kind of buzz.

Remember, while small doses are enough to treat cluster headaches, Psilocybin is a powerful hallucinogen and must be used with caution. Every person is different, and every natural substance has the potential to differ significantly in potency. Start low, go slow, and prepare yourself for any psychedelic experiences that might come along.

The Relief

The effect of tryptamines on clusters can seem like magic at first—surprisingly fast and complete. But it’s not magic, it’s neurochemistry.

Everyone is different, but there often is an immediate sense of relief, followed within a few hours or a day or two, by the return of cluster attacks. These “slap-backs” can be abnormal attacks – shorter or longer than usual, or more painful or less painful than usual, and coming at odd times. There might be a few or several but these attacks then may begin to fade, at least for a while.

Symptoms may gradually return or continue at a low level, and a repeat dose is needed. For many, two or three doses can end a cycle. Some find they must repeat the dose every week or two, gradually stretching out the time between doses until the cycle ends.

Psilocybin and other tryptamines don’t seem to work on some people. For others, it is extraordinarily effective. One sufferer of chronic cluster headaches reported being pain-free for years after a single dose. Another reported no relief at all after several relatively strong doses.

The Theory

We don’t know how this works. There is informed speculation on how such small amounts of substances can overcome such large headaches, but there is much to be learned. It’s serious neurology, of course. Some ideas seem to center on the way tryptamines constrict blood vessels; others involve the way the indole-ring molecule of the tryptamines fits into serotonin receptors. Particularly interesting is the way small, infrequent doses can have long-lasting effects and seem to work best if taken at intervals of several days.

Of course, it is not magic even if it seems like it, and serious scientific research into the mechanism of both cluster headache and tryptamine effects on the brain would go a long way toward eliminating much massive pain.

Advocating for Change

Addressing the legal and regulatory obstacles surrounding psychedelic treatments for cluster headaches is imperative for providing relief to those suffering from this debilitating condition.

While recent proposals by regulatory agencies like the DEA suggest a tightening of restrictions on psychedelic substances, advocacy efforts must push for legislative changes to facilitate access to these promising treatments.

Read: Calgary Man Could Get Assisted Death But Not Medical Mushrooms

Cluster headaches represent a significant medical challenge, with conventional treatments often falling short in providing relief for sufferers. The therapeutic potential of psychedelics, particularly psilocybin and LSD, offers new hope for those affected by cluster headaches. However, overcoming legal and regulatory barriers is essential to realize the full potential of psychedelic treatments and alleviate the suffering of cluster headache patients.

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