Psychedelic Science Feature: Psilocybin For Headaches - Benzinga

This article written by Alexa Julianne was published originally on Psychedelic Spotlight. It is now available with permission.

There is increasing evidence supporting that psychedelics are effective treating severe disorders such as PTSD depression, PTSD, as well as anxiety — the industry is beginning to concentrate on more specialized disorders such as headaches.

The psychedelics like psilocybin “truly can change the way we treat a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as headaches,” said one neuropharmacologist during the annual meeting of the American Headache Society. Because headaches can affect a wide range of people and be mild or insufferable, research is being conducted for four different headache types, with psilocybin serving as the most prominent.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches have received the most attention from studies on psychedelics due to the intensity of symptoms. Cluster headaches are possible to occur up to 8 times a day, and are extremely painful, and last between 15 minutes and 3 hours. As per the American Migraine Foundation, cluster headaches are named in reference to how they manifest throughout the day in sudden intense bursts.

One sufferer of cluster headaches specifically stated that “I was close to end my life due to the issue,” resulting in the name “suicide headaches.” Cluster headaches top the list of most painful types of headache. The cluster headaches were compared with other painful conditions and situations such as gunshot wounds as well as pancreatitis and stab injuries in a major international study. Averaging a pain rating of 9.7 on a scale of 10 points and a pain score of 9.7, cluster headaches were considered to be the most painful of conditions, with labor-related pain ranking the second position with 7.2. Since cluster headaches are affecting 0.1 percentage of people, it’s not uncommon as per the vice-president of the non-profit cluster headache organisation, Clusterbusters.

For treatment of cluster headaches There are no specific drugs that are yet discovered. Three treatment options are commonly used: rapid attack-freezing abortive treatment, a transitional therapy, and preventive.

  • Effective treatment for abortive issues such as sumatriptan and high-flow oxygen and, occasionally, intranasal triptans.
  • Treatment for preventive purposes: Verapamil and lithium have been prescribed to patients as prevention medicines. However because of their potential negative impact on the kidney, heart and the liver, both verapamil as well as lithium can be ineffective, and cannot be prescribed or stopped using. Another option is topiramate. Doctors may choose melatonin, clomiphene, dihydroergotamine, pizotifen, etc. If these drugs don’t work.
  • Treatments for transitional conditions: they are often preferred due to the fact that they are less likely to have the negative effects that preventative drugs can take a few weeks to show. The most effective treatment for transition is one that involves higher doses prednisone and the occipital nerve injections, and frovatriptan.

However there’s no way to tell if these methods work for everyone or consistently. Studies have revealed that in the search of alleviation, individuals are attempting different treatments on their own, which includes psychoactive substances.

A first surveys was conducted in the year 2006 with Professor. Halpern and his colleagues following an individual contacted Halpern and claimed that psychedelic drugs had totally removed their cluster headaches. He claimed that he was recognized as having the condition of cluster headaches and that, after taking LSD in a recreational way, he totally got rid of his symptoms.

Halpern’s results from 53 participants showed that psilocybin as well as LSD each had the possibility of having a significant impact on the severity and frequency of the cluster headaches. Of the 29 individuals who tried psilocybin in middle of a period of cluster 27 (93 percent) claimed it to be efficient. In addition on this, 52 percent reported that it ended the attack, and 41 percent reported it decreased the intensity or frequency of attacks. For 18 out of 19 users of psilocybin and 4 out of five LSD people, psychoactive substances extended the duration of remission.

A study of a small size in Denmark under the direction of Professor. Gitte Knudsen, a medical doctor at Copenhagen University Hospital Rigshospitalet and an associate professor in the University of Copenhagen, and her coworkers discovered that psilocybin can improve satisfaction with life and the quality of life for those suffering from chronic cluster headaches,, even though the burden of chronic headaches could not decrease. While it does have a generally satisfactory safety profile however, doctors. Knudsen advised the patients against taking psychedelics as self-medication. Dr. Knudsen also noted that more research studies are needed to establish the safety and effectiveness of psilocybin.

Based on Halpern’s survey as well as the positive research studies using psilocybin in the treatment of cluster headaches have begun with Yale University. With her colleagues and Dr. Emmanuelle Schindler, Medical Director of the Headache Center of Excellence and Assistant Professor at Yale has also discovered that psychedelics performed better in treating cluster headaches than traditional medications in a study of qualitative nature with over 500 participants. The study showed that Dr. Schindler that “Cluster migraine sufferers have been taking the psychedelics to treat their conditions for more than twenty years” and that they’ve already “uncovered numerous reports of anecdotal evidence to support the healing potential of psychedelicsthat show the therapeutic potential of [psychedelics].” She along with her colleagues are launching controlled studies to study the effects of psilocybin as well as the mechanisms that work in the treatment of cluster headaches.

A test in this study will measure those effects of taking a higher dose and a lesser dose (i.e. microdose, also known as a non-hallucinogenic dose). This is due to the fact that Schindler’s subjects were reported to have used very rarely and low doses , while Halpern and other researchers have found the 42% who said they had experienced headaches were completely or partially alleviated after using “subhallucinogenic dosages” of psilocybin, or LSD. This is especially intriguing since most studies on psychedelics have found how intense and mystical an experience, the more positive the result and the more likely that the effects will last for over a long period of time. This is also true of studies which have used psilocybin in treatment of anxiety, depression, etc. It doesn’t seem to be the case, based on research on headaches in the form of qualitative data to date.

The study is complete and the findings are available for publication. we will find out the impact three sessions of either low and high dosages of psilocybin can have on the frequency, length or the intensity of attacks. As per Schindler, “There appears to be a mechanism that isn’t related to psychedelic effects that are acute but more research is required to determine the mechanism as well as whether it is distinct for different types of headache.”

This is the reason behind the two headache studies the Dr. Schindler is conducting at Yale on migraines and post-concussive headaches.


Migraines are more common with lower levels of pain, compared to cluster headaches and affecting over 10 percent of the population of the world. The intense burning sensation or pulsing pain that is caused by migraine typically affects just either side of your head. Nausea, vomiting, as well as sensitive to bright light and loud sounds are common migraine-related symptoms. The length that a migraine attacks may vary between a few hours and several days. The pain can be so severe that it’s difficult to perform daily tasks. Prodrome migraine, aura, headache and postdrome are the four phases that migraines may develop. But not every person who suffers from migraines must go through each stages. In the words of Schindler, “New treatment therapies are constantly needed since migraine is a widespread illness and the most common cause of disability for those under 50 across the world.”

Analgesics such as paracetamol, aspirin naproxen, ibuprofen diclofenac and phenazone as well as triptans are among the most well-known migraine remedies. Alternative and complementary medicines are often utilized as a result of dissatisfaction with traditional treatments and their adversities.

A qualitative study conducted in 2017 of Sweden provided a different treatment option for migraines when psilocybin is described as “highly efficient for both cluster headaches as well as migraines” according to the cumulative user reviews.

The study of psilocybin to treat migraine headaches is currently being conducted at Yale by Dr. Schindler and colleagues. This is a follow-up to a tiny randomized placebo-controlled, exploratory study where they discovered that a single dose of psilocybin at a low dose decreased your migraine frequency by 25% in the course that lasted two weeks. The effect that a single dose brought on migraines over a short amount of time stand in stark contrast to the usual migraine medicines, which have to be taken every day.

In order to comprehend this distinction in order to understand this difference, the doctor. Schindler explains, “One of the most fascinating aspects is the fact that psychedelics are in a chemical and pharmacological way similar to the conventional migraine drugs. In contrast to conventional migraine medications however, psilocybin seems to last following a single dose. this is what differentiates psychoactive substances from conventional treatment.”

The purpose of the next research is “investigate what happens when you take repeated doses of psilocybin in comparison with a single dose to determine if this dose method could result in more of a beneficial impact.”

This study adds to the increasing amount of research which could suggest the use of Psilocybin for migraine relief.

Headaches post-concussive

Post-traumatic headaches also known as post-concussion headaches are often connected to a range of other serious and/or concurrent circumstances. There’s still plenty to be learned about their causes and the mechanisms. The symptoms can be similar to the symptoms of any primary headache disorder and are similar to migraines that do not have the ambiance (e.g. cluster headaches, tension-type headaches). Following a traumatic brain injury (TBI) post-concussion headaches usually occur seven days later and disappear within 3 months.

There is no evidence that FDA is not approving any drugs for treating post-traumatic headaches. The primary physician, or patient will often begin a treatment regimen. A majority of patients take NSAIDs for their primary form of treatment. However post-concussive headaches often do not respond to treatment Therefore, other treatment options are usually recommended to treat these.

Studies to study Psilocybin’s effects treatment on post-concussive headaches have been initiated through Deepak D’Souza, MD, and Dr. Schindler and are currently taking place at Yale. A placebo, low and/or high dosage of Psilocybin is going to be administered to the participants on two days for testing which will be spaced approximately two weeks from each other. The frequency and intensity of their headaches as well as any other symptoms will be assessed. Through the course of the study, tests on blood will be taken at various times in order to test inflammation peptides and.


The short-term Unilateral Neuralgiform headache attacks also known as SUNHA is a rare and debilitating kind of headache. The headaches can be extremely painful and may be triggered by touching your scalp or face or scalp, bathing, washing hair cutting, eating, or coughing, working out, or any of a myriad of other routine activities. Attacks caused by SUNHA can last anywhere between 1 second to 10 minutes. It is most commonly seen in men , and is diagnosed at an average at 48 years of age. The US in the US and Europe, SUNHA is likely to affect around 40,000 people.

What’s most striking about this headache , according to Cosmo Fielding Mellen, the CEO of Beckley Psytech is that, “People may experience up 100 headaches every day, and there’s no treatment approved currently.”

Beckley Psytech is a privately owned, independent non-profit created to address mental and neurological disorders with the utilization of psychedelic substances. They have begun an early-stage clinical study to evaluate how psilocybin works on treating SUNHA. They will determine “if they can utilize low dose psilocybin for improving the symptoms and lower instances of headaches for patients suffering from this condition.”

The National Hospital of Neurology as well as Neurosurgery, Manjit Matharu, neurologists consultant and the clinical head of their headache group states, “I have been involved in the field of research for SUNHA for the past 22 years and have seen firsthand the devastating impact the condition can have on a variety of patients.”

Mellen clarifies, “The potential medical advantages of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin can transform the health of people suffering from this illness.” Mellen adds, “We are very excited to begin this world-first clinical study”. The trial is for Beckley Psytech and the patients who could benefit by this therapy, this is an important change in the course of.

Patients suffering from different headache disorders are now able to have optimism due to Psilocybin. We are still waiting for this study to prove its effectiveness and safety. As the trial progresses we’ll soon know in what extent the effects that psilocybin can have on these various headaches.