Scientists are considering psilocybin as a treatment for headaches caused by cluster headaches — PsyPost

Scientists are considering psilocybin as a treatment for headaches caused by cluster headaches -- PsyPost

The findings of the first double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled research study to examine how psilocybin affects people cluster headaches have appeared in the journal of science Headache. The study’s initial findings provide valuable information to conduct larger and more convincing research studies in the coming years.

Cluster headaches are a neurologic disorder that triggers extreme pain headaches similar to severe migraine. It affects approximately 0.1 percent in the general population. It is distinguished by sudden, intense and excruciating pain , which comes and passes in patterns as “clusters.” Because of the intense pain that is caused by cluster headaches and the fact that many medical professionals consider it an extremely painful ailments that exist.

A few reports have circulated over the many years that psilocybin is the psychoactive ingredient that is found in “magic mushrooms” aids in reducing cluster headaches. However, there isn’t much research-based evidence to back these claims.

“Cluster headache patients have been self-managing their disease with psilocybin-containing mushrooms and other similar substances for decades now,” said lead researcher Emmanuelle A. D. Schindler, an assistant professor of neurology at Yale School of Medicine and medical director at the Headache Center of Excellence at VA Connecticut Healthcare System.

“Interestingly patients experience long-lasting effects even after a small dose of medication. I wanted this information to be made available to the scientific and medical communities in their own languages and through the conduct of an randomized controlled study.”

Researchers gathered an adult sample of 16 (aged between 21-65 years) with cluster headache , but were free of any other serious mental or medical conditions. Participants were randomly assigned three doses of Psilocybin (0.143 mg/kg) or placebo over a period of time that were spaced approximately five days apart. The study employed an enhanced method of blinding that made the dosage inaccessible to both participants and the research team. Participants kept a diary of their headaches beginning two weeks prior to and lasting for eight weeks following the first session.

Psilocybin users were more likely to feel less irritable and less agitated. the symptoms of cluster headaches however, this improvement was not statistically significant in comparison to placebo.

“In this brief study, there was evidence of therapeutic effects from the psilocybin compound in headache clusters,” Schindler told PsyPost. “While the reduction of 30% in the frequency of headache attacks each weekly was statistically not significant, it is clear that some people who participated in the study did respond, while some did not. Thus, while the mean reduction in attacks per week was just 30%, for those who did respond the mean reduction was more like 75%..”

The absence of statistical significance could be due to the exploratory nature of study and the limited sample size. The unpredictable and cyclical characteristics of the cluster headaches can make it difficult to determine the effect.

“The sampling size of the study was very tiny (only 14 participants in the analysis finalized) The treatment regimen (3 doses, five days apart) was administered only at once (results of a subsequent round will be published later next year) Responses were diverse (some did respond, while others didn’t),” Schindler explained. “These elements could impact the significance of statistical studies in any medication used to prevent cluster headaches study.”

Despite the absence of any significant findings, the preliminary results could be used to guide larger and more precise research. “A significant amount of work required,” Schindler said. “This study barely scratches the surface. We need more studies that include many patients research which cover more period of time (years) as well as protocols which allow changes to the dosage regimen based on the response of patients (standard in headache treatment).”

It is interesting to note that the intensity of psychedelic symptoms that were acute like feelings of being one with the universe, and shifts in perception of visuals weren’t associated with variations in frequency of attack on clusters.

“This study along with my earlier migraine study which also showed no connection between the reduction in the frequency of headaches in time and the degree to which the psychedelic effects were on the days that the drug was administered,” Schindler told PsyPost. “This is in contrast to studies on mental health issues in which there appears to be a connection.”

“Since headaches aren’t mental health conditions the absence of a connection makes sense. The procedure I have used for my migraine and cluster headache studies doesn’t include any of the methods used that are used in studies on mental health including psychotherapy due to the fact that headache disorders aren’t psychiatric disorders.”

The precise cause of the cause of cluster headaches is not understood fully however it is believed to be caused by abnormalities in the hypothalamus. It is a component of the brain which regulates your body’s clock internal to it, and regulates various bodily functions, including sleep , as well as an autonomic nervous system. Psilocybin has been shown to lower circulation of blood to the hypothalamushowever, whether it affects the symptoms of headache isn’t known.

“It’s crucial to be aware that the manner in how psychedelics are used for therapeutic purposes will differ depending on the condition,” Schindler said. “It’s worth noting that psychedelics are in some way related to headache medications and headache medications, both in their chemical and their pharmacology.”

“In fact the time that Albert Hofmann created LSD in 1938, he was seeking for a medicine that had vaso-broncho-spastic and vaso-broncho-s which could be utilized in migraine. A compound that was later developed from the LSD molecules, methysergide was an extremely effective migraine preventive. Methysergide was a daily dose to treat headaches. This caused side effects, and eventually the drug was taken out of the marketplace. This incident serves as an example of the use of psychedelics to treat headaches or in any other condition.”

This study “Exploratory research into a low-dose psilocybin pulse treatment that is patient-informed to reduce cluster headache: Findings from a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial” was written by Emmanuelle A. D. Schindler, R. Andrew Sewell, Christopher H. Gottschalk, Christina Luddy, L. Taylor Flynn, Yutong Zhu Hayley Lindsey Brian P. Pittman, Nicholas V. Cozzi, and Deepak C. D’Souza.