Updated: Sep 4, 2021
As research continues to validate the benefits of psychedelic medicines in the treatment of mental health conditions, many patients and practitioners wonder whether these substances have the potential to relieve migraines and cluster headaches (CH).
Migraines and CH are painful, debilitating, and chronic conditions with significant personal, healthcare, and economic costs. 12% of the US population suffers from migraines costing the US economy $19.3 billion annually in productivity loss. While CH are far less prevalent (1 in 1000 individuals), the extreme nature of the pain is a strong factor for suicidal ideation with 64.2% reporting passive suicidal ideation and 35.8% reporting active suicidal ideation during a CH episode.
Unfortunately, despite the massive human and economic costs, treatment options remain limited and mostly ineffective. Dissatisfaction with the efficacy of conventional treatments, and the unpleasant side effects of these treatments have motivated individuals and health practitioners alike to seek alternative and complementary therapies to provide relief.
One of the more promising alternative treatment options includes microdosing psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD. A few research studies (a, b, c, d, e) have demonstrated the efficacy of these substances to not only relieve an active headache episode but also significantly reduce and or completely eliminate both migraines and CH in research participants.
Both psilocybin and LSD contain tryptamine which is structurally similar to the triptan currently prescribed for the treatment of CH. However, while the non-psychoactive triptan prescription helps to temporarily relieve headaches for many patients, it does not eliminate or reduce the frequency of the headaches as the psychedelic alternatives seem to do.
While more research is warranted to fully understand dosage, mitigating factors, and adverse effects, tryptamine-containing psychedelics offer a new frontier for the treatment of migraines and cluster headaches.
In my practice, clients who have taken up microdosing psilocybin for depression, anxiety, or PTSD, often report significant reduction and/or complete elimination of migraine headaches. Considering that microdosing psychedelics carries little to no unpleasant side effects especially in comparison with pharmaceutical medications for migraines and CH, it is often considered a safe option to explore for most individuals suffering from strong headache syndromes. With that said, always consult your physician prior to starting a microdosing regimen especially if you have a chronic health condition and/or are taking prescription medications.