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Researchers are looking to the nascent psychedelics market to find an alternative treatment for cluster headaches. A growing body of literature has already revealed that psychedelics can be effective at treating a myriad of mental health disorders when paired with psychotherapy. In fact, the majority of the research involving psychedelics, including psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine, has involved their potent mental health benefits.
Yale University researchers have now published the results of the first-ever randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of psilocybin, the main psychoactive agent in magic mushrooms, on cluster headaches. These headaches are a rare neurological condition that affects around 0.1% of the population and cause extremely intense and painful headaches.
Although anecdotal reports from users claim that psilocybin can help relieve the pain from cluster headaches, there is little scientific evidence behind the claims. However, assistant professor of neurology at the Yale School of Medicine and medical director at the Headache Center of Excellence at VA Connecticut Healthcare System and lead researcher Emmanuelle AD Schindler explains that people with cluster headaches have been using psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics to self-medicate for decades.
Noting that such patients have reported long-term effects after using limited doses, Schindler wanted to conduct a randomized controlled trial to share this knowledge with the scientific and medical communities. The exploratory study involved 16 adults with cluster headaches randomly receiving either a placebo or 0.143 mg/kg of psilocybin over five days.
The participants filled out headache diaries starting two weeks before they were dosed and then continued for eight weeks following the first dosing session. The researchers found that those who received psilocybin reported a decrease in cluster headache symptoms. However, the reduction in cluster headache symptoms was not statistically significant compared to the placebo.
Schindler said that the “small preliminary study” provided evidence of psilocybin’s therapeutic effectiveness against cluster headaches. She noted that while the 30% drop in the number of weekly headache attacks was not statistically significant, there was clear evidence that some patients responded to the psychedelic while others didn’t. Patients who responded to the treatment saw a 75% reduction in weekly attacks even though the average reduction for the entire study pool was around 30%.
Still, the data gathered in this study could be used to develop larger studies in the future. Schindler said that this study just scratched the surface, and researchers will need larger, more definitive studies with hundreds of patients with adjustable dosing regimens to determine if psilocybin can be an alternative treatment for cluster headaches.
Additional research on other psychedelics is being undertaken by the likes of Seelos Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SEEL), so the world can look forward to exciting revelations about these substances.
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