MAPS is developing research into the use of psilocybin
and LSD in the treatment of cluster headaches. Cluster
headaches are a rare, severely painful form of headache
that is related to but different from the more common
migraine. Dr. Peter Goadsby, the world's leading researcher
on cluster headaches, has commented, "The pain of
a cluster headache is worse than natural childbirth or
even amputation without anesthetic." The pain of
a cluster headache commences quickly, without warning,
and reaches a crescendo within 2 to 15 minutes. It is
often excruciating in intensity, and is deep, nonfluctuating,
and explosive in quality. People may have episodic or
chronic cluster headaches; currently, this research focuses
on episodic cluster headaches. Episodic cluster headaches
occur periodically, often occurring at the same time each
year. During a cycle, a person with episodic cluster headaches
will experience an average of one to three headaches per
day, with frequency ranging from one headache every other
day to eight per day.
treatments include treatments for stopping headache pain
as it occurs (abortives), and treatments that reduce the
occurrence or re-occurrence of cluster headaches (prophylaxis).
Abortive treatments include Imitrex (sumatriptan) and
other triptans, non-psychedelic ergotamines, and pure
oxygen, and prophylaxes include the ergotamine methysergide,
lithium (used to treat bipolar affective disorder) and
calcium channel blockers (medication used to treat high
blood pressure). Up to 30% of people with cluster headaches
cannot prevent headaches from occurring with conventional
prophylactic treatments, and because there are limits
on the number of daily doses of triptans for treating
headaches as they occur, some people may not be able to
stop every headache they have once it occurs. As well,
use of abortive and preventive medications has risks (for
instance, a monthly blood test for serum lithium levels
is required when taking lithium), and some cluster headache
sufferers report that prophylaxes can "wear out"
reports suggest that ingesting psilocybin (as through
psilocybin-containing mushrooms) or LSD can reduce cluster
headache pain and, more significantly, can interrupt cluster
headache cycles so that no more headaches will occur.
MAPS is supporting John Halpern MD and Andrew Sewell MD
in analyzing and organizing responses to a questionnaire
posted on www.clusterbusters.com, an organization run
by and for people with cluster headaches and supporting
the use of psilocybin, LSD and other related substances
as treatments for cluster headaches. A survey is also
on the Vaults of Erowid for people who have used psychedelics
in the treatment of cluster headaches and migraines. Data
from both surveys will be used by John H. Halpern MD and
Andrew Sewell MD in developing a research study directly
investigating psilocybin and LSD as a potential abortive
and prophylactic (cycle-interrupting) treatment for cluster
headaches. Initially, this research will focus on studying
people with episodic cluster headaches; future research
may include people with episodic and chronic cluster headaches.
Halpern and Sewell are currently developing a randomized,
dose-response study of psilocybin and LSD in people with
episodic cluster headaches. If approved by the McLean
IRB and the FDA, this research study will take place at
McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility and research hospital
affiliated with Harvard Medical School. The investigators
are currently working on designing a pilot study wherein
people will be assigned to receive low or higher doses
of psilocybin or LSD to see whether these substances will
interrupt an ongoing cluster headache cycle. If study
results are promising, then further research studies will
be designed and conducted. We hope that this research
program will lead to psilocybin and LSD becoming legal,
prescription treatments for the interruption of cluster
headaches and cluster headache cycles.
there is no legal research with LSD in humans taking place
in the world, and we hope that this will be the first
study to renew human research with LSD.
and David Weil have donated $50,000 for this research
effort, Joseph Leonard has donated $2,000 and the Organization
for Understanding Cluster Headache (OUCH) has donated
$1000. An estimated $107,000 in addition is being sought
to support this clinical trial.
to support research on psilocybin and LSD as cluster headache
treatments are needed, MAPS will allocate 100% of any
donation specifically restricted to this study. People
who donate $100.00 or more to the Cluster Headache Research
project at Harvard Medical School can receive a free Clusterbusters
necklace, featuring a mushroom-shaped pendant. To receive
a necklace, make a donation here at MAPS and write Clusterbusters
to confirm the donation, along with information on your
shipping address. People can also help support this research
by purchasing a necklace directly from Clusterbusters.
Visit the ClusterBusters website for more details.
is also raising funds for the cluster headache study through
the sale of limited editions of portraits of Albert Hofmann
by light artist Dean Chamberlain, signed by Albert. The
first series of 50 are all sold out and raised over $26,000
for the study. A series of 25 larger-size portraits are
now for sale, with prices now starting at $5000. For more
information, see Hofmann Portraits.
to purchase one of the remaining prints.
from WIRED magazine:
... Dr. Steven Halpern is also working with Bob Wold, a
51-year-old construction firm owner who suffered from debilitating
cluster headaches, which are rare but brutal, until four
years ago when he tried psilocybin to treat them. Wold had
never used psychedelic drugs recreationally, and he was
concerned and skeptical about using an illegal substance.
But he was in the midst of choosing between three surgeries
for his cluster headaches, each of which would have cost
about $35,000. One involved a gamma knife to cut into his
brain; the other two required holes drilled in his skull.
Given those options, psilocybin didn't seem so radical.
psilocybin) broke my cycle" of headaches, Wold said.
"There is nothing on the market now, and there never
has been, that will actually break a cycle."
relief from his nightmarish pain spurred Wold to start
a movement. He now runs clusterbusters.com, where he communicates
with about 200 other cluster-headache victims who have
tried psilocybin to relieve their pain. Wold has collected
reams of data in the form of questionnaires, which Halpern
can present to Harvard's institutional review board. Studies
starting as early as the '50s that showed psilocybin and
LSD had therapeutic effects helped Wold decide to try
a psychedelic. The studies also showed success with other
disorders including depression, alcoholism and addiction
to other drugs like heroin.
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