…and not only that, but painkilling medicine, too. Newsweek reveals that the psychedelic rocket fuels of 1960s culture are proving to be unique weapons against the otherwise untreatable agony of cluster headaches:
Bob Wold, the president of Cluster Busters, has a story like many of the group’s members. His headaches went misdiagnosed for four years (he even had a few teeth pulled because his dentist suspected hidden cavities were causing the pain—a common, and unproductive treatment among wrongly diagnosed cluster headache sufferers). When he was properly diagnosed, none of the 75 medications he tried gave him lasting relief. During a particularly painful episode in which he began to consider a radical, and mostly unproven, surgical treatment that would have involved severing his trigeminal nerves and killing all sensation in his face, Wold came across an online discussion about using LSD or psilocybin to treat cluster headaches. He was hesitant, but 45 minutes after his first dose of psilocybin, he could tell that something remarkable was happening: “My head was clearer than it had felt in 20 years.”
So in 2006, Halpern and colleagues Andrew Sewell and Harrison Pope Jr. published an analysis of interviews with 53 subjects who had tried LSD or psilocybin for their cluster headaches. What they found was astounding: 41 percent of those who took psilocybin during a cluster episode (which can last for months) reported a decreased intensity or frequency of headaches, and an additional 52 percent said the episode ended altogether; 95 percent of those who took psilocybin between episodes said their next episode was delayed or totally averted. The study was preliminary, unblinded, and uncontrolled, but convincing enough to prompt more methodical research. McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School are currently reviewing a prospective study using psilocybin to treat cluster headaches in a controlled environment.