Chronic pain sufferers will do anything to get relief, even illicit drugs. But they can’t be blamed, the system that’s supposed to serve them has failed to bring them ease. In this article, I will be exploring some of the oldest, but now becoming more mainstream approaches that chronic pain sufferers are using to remedy their situations.
Of course, before the article I just want to make it clear that Migraine Professional does not endorse the use of any illegal drugs.
What are chronic pain sufferers that have not found relief using to self medicate?
The largest buzz, especially in the migraine community has become cannabis and CBD. Cannabis’ far reaching affects can improve appetite, sleep, treat endocannabinoid deficiency and has even been found to relieve migraines…(1)
CBD is cannabis’ non psychoactive and much more “culturally appropriate” cousin. It is one of the many proteins inside cannabis that has medicinal effects but can be extracted from hemp into a concentration that makes it safe and easy to use. You can see one of our articles on CBD and migraines here.
The main substance I will be covering in this article because of its specific anecdotal use in migraines and cluster headaches is psilocybin which is a single drug isolated from the commonly known magic mushrooms.
Some other substances that are often used as last resorts like psilocybin are lysergic acid diethylamide(LSD) lysergic acid amide(LSA) and the class of psychedelic tryptamines like DMT or dimethyltryptamine.
These substances are similar to the common migraine medications like triptans because they are indole alkaloids except triptans are only used for aborting migraines whereas some reports have found psychedelic tryptamines useful for not only aborting but also preventing and reducing in pain levels.
One survey done on cluster headache patients found that,
“The indoleamine hallucinogens, psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide, and lysergic acid amide, were comparable to or more efficacious than most conventional medications.”
It also found that,
“These agents were also perceived to shorten/abort a cluster period and bring chronic cluster headache into remission more so than conventional medications.”
This is huge, but a survey is very low quality compared to an actual clinical study.
How safe are psilocybin and other tryptamines?
Their massive and sweeping illegalization has restricted some of the most necessary research on them, primarily for us to know how safe or unsafe they are.
Magic mushroom use may date back thousands of years and throughout many different cultures use of it for its medicinal and psychedelic effects.(2)
But just because something has been used for a long time does not necessarily make it safe.
A 2007 global drug survey found that out of 10,000 people who used the main source of psilocybin(magic mushrooms) only 0.2% required emergency medical treatment.
Even still, psilocybin is classed in the same category as heroine and crack cocaine. This does not mean it is completely safe and this article is not encouraging or promoting its use.
An article in the guardian writes,
“Psilocybin mushrooms have been found to have minimal harmful effects and could potentially benefit those with depression.”
One population study found that,
“We failed to find evidence that psychedelic use is an independent risk factor for mental health problems. Psychedelics are not known to harm the brain or other body organs or to cause addiction or compulsive use; serious adverse events involving psychedelics are extremely rare.”
But there are many different types of mushrooms, even other psychedelic mushrooms that are poisonous and taking the wrong kind can result in injury or death.
This makes it especially difficult for those who have run out of options and are looking for a source. Eventually they will find one, but will it be safe?
According to an article in popular science you should look for a mycologist who can properly educate you on species and safety.
What are the benefits of Psilocybin?
With all of the above said it’s also important to understand that psilocybin does seem to come with other benefits as well such as:
In one study they found that,
“a single dose of psilocybin significantly helped cancer patients with the anxiety and depression accompanying their life-threatening diagnoses.”
There also seem to be pain relieving effects from taking doses that are below actual psychoactive or psychedelic effect levels which makes it much easier to do if you’re not willing to dive into your mind.
A study that used a psychoactive dose of psilocybin mushrooms combined with a therapy session found that benefits lasted over 6 months and even 15 years down the line patients reported, “I remember that experience for the rest of my life as a touchstone experience,” and which they, “remember and continue to draw upon.”
See the video below to get a stronger understanding of how severe cluster headaches are and why cluster headache and migraine sufferers are turning to them.
So is psilocybin effective for migraines and cluster headaches?
Anecdotally it seems like there are multiple benefits and some even experience reduction in frequency, intensity and severity of both migraines and cluster headaches.
There are also reported positive changes in behaviour, epiphanies, anti anxiety and depressive properties all of which can help us turn the tide in our battle against neuro-inflammation that causes so many of the pains we experience.
With this said, it doesn’t make it any easier to acquire or use safely.
The laws prohibiting its use are world wide other than a few select countries and being caught with them may even come with jail time make this a highly risky route to take.
How is psilocybin used for migraines and cluster headaches?
This is another early area because we really don’t know how to take the best advantage of its medicinal properties but there are a few main ways that have been experimented with, none of which are recommended as it is illegal in most countries.
The first is simply taking a psychoactive dose which is north of 3 dried grams of the mushroom.
Then we have the most commonly reported method for migraines and clusters which is by taking what are called micro-doses. These are doses that are under 0.5 grams of the dried mushroom and done every day. Taking it daily prevents the actual psychedelic effects after a few days because your body builds up a tolerance.
There is also the option of finding a way to isolate psilocybin and take it orally as a powder which is incredibly difficult to do, time consuming and highly illegal.
The right way(if there was a right way) would be to find the dose that works best for you as it will affect everyone differently just as medications, foods, supplements and other therapies do.
The important note here is that the body up-regulates enzymes to break it down faster which make it impossible to develop a habit/addiction because the same dose that would give you a high on your first day would do nothing on the second.
Reportedly some may only need one dose to reap the benefits for months or even years but some may require it micro-dosed every day which means knowing your own body is the best bet.
Will psilocybin ever be a legal medicine?
It’s very possible. Many will travel out of the country to destinations where it’s legal so that they can understand if this is something that will get them out of the hole that migraines and cluster headaches can feel like.
Right now there is legislation all over the world pushing for the legalization of cannabis and the movement for legalization of magic mushrooms is also growing.
Colorado and Oregon are giving a hard push for its legalization or at least rescheduling to something that is more in line with how safe and beneficial it may actually be.
It is completely within the foreseeable future that we will have more clinical studies run to understand its effects and safety.
It is also a large possibility that it may one day become an approved medical treatment for these conditions given how safe it is and how the anecdotal reports are presenting it.
But until then we have to use the methods that work best even when medications may fail and that is addressing the root causes of dysfunction in the body. If our brain is pushed to the edge by stress, deficiencies and trauma then it will not be able to function like it should, continually triggering pain.
But if we can lower our trigger levels and increase the speed at which our body is removing waste from brain cells while providing the necessary nutrients to develop strong and resilient brain cells with more connections, there is no reason we should have these “power outtages” in the brain.
To understand the threshold theory behind migraines see our video here.
If you are experiencing head pain that is not ending and medication is not working for then see our article on the 3 secrets of understanding status migrainousus and intractable migraines here.
Have you experienced or tried any psychoactive compound and found relief from your pain? Let me know in the comments below.
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Holistic Health Practitioner
Mark Canadic is a writer, speaker, holistic health practitioner and migraine community leader. Read Mark’s inspiring comeback story, “My Burnout and Brain Fires that Lead me to the Root.” Feel free to send Mark a message here.