Pubdate: Sat, 05 May 2007
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2007 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Fred Reed
Bookmark: (Hallucinogens)
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)


Until recently, I had never heard of cluster headaches, and neither
had my friend Bob, which isn't his name for reasons that will soon be

Bob was in his late 40s with no medical problems.

Out of nowhere he began having headaches. These were not the
two-aspirin kind, or even migraines. They were monsters. I realized
this one night at his house. For an hour he lay on the floor,
screaming. We're not talking moaning and grousing. Screaming.

Clueless, he went to the Web and discovered cluster headaches. They
are hideous. His symptoms were par for the course.

Nobody knows what causes them. They are fairly rare, which is why many
people have not heard of them. To those who have them, they are a huge
deal. Various Web sites describe them: and, for example. has a video file of an attack in progress. "Click
below to see a short example of the typical effects of a cluster
headache attack in progress ... WARNING: file is very graphic." Yep.

Bob went to doctors, who didn't know what to do but prescribed
migraine medications, some of them very expensive and all of them
largely ineffective. He was having several of these things a week. He
began pondering suicide. I'm not kidding and neither was he.

He then discovered, maintained by people who have
the headaches. It reported that sufferers who took small doses of
psilocybin no longer had the headaches. At this point he was willing
to inject cobra venom if he thought it might help. He got psilocybin,
a hallucinogenic found in mushrooms, and the headaches stopped.

Let me emphasize that Bob was not a druggie. In college he had
experimented with hallucinogens and didn't like them at all. The dose
he took for his headaches was subrecreational: It didn't produce, or
barely produced, the effects for which most people take psilocybin.

He got some spores and began growing the mushrooms secretly in his
basement. Psilocybin is illegal. He was a criminal. Yet for him, and
for a lot of other people, having it was perhaps literally a matter of
life or death.

As it turned out, heavyweight neurologists had run into anecdotal
evidence of the effectiveness of psilocybin and had undertaken
studies, including Dr. R. Andrew Sewell, Dr. John H. Halpern and Dr.
Harrison G. Pope Jr. of McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

 From Neurology, the magazine of the American Academy of Neurology: "The
authors interviewed 53 cluster headache patients who had used
psilocybin or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) to treat their condition.

"Twenty-two of 26 psilocybin users reported that psilocybin aborted
attacks; 25 of 48 psilocybin users and seven of eight LSD users
reported cluster period termination ..."

My question: When a seriously painful medical condition is cured by an
illegal substance, the cure being substantiated by premier researchers
at as good a medical institution as exists, what do we do? Nobody here
is looking for a legal excuse to use illegal drugs. They just don't
want to roll on the floor, screaming.

When medical technology and the law are in conflict, human decency
suggests making medical exceptions to the law. A great many
potentially abusable drugs -- Demerol, morphine, codeine, what have
you -- are used medically under control by prescription.

Why not psilocybin? If you ever listen to someone with a cluster
headache, you will agree. I promise. 
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