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Yale Study Finds Psilocybin Cuts Cluster Headaches by 50%
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Yale Study Finds Psilocybin Cuts Cluster Headaches by 50%

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
July 09, 2024
2 min

Cluster headaches are known as one of the most painful conditions, often described as worse than childbirth. These headaches cause excruciating pain that’s so intense that they’re sometimes referred to as “suicide headaches.” Unfortunately, managing this condition is notoriously difficult since traditional treatments often only provide limited relief. However, a recent study from the Yale School of Medicine has found that psilocybin can significantly reduce the frequency of these debilitating headaches, offering a new potential treatment for those suffering from the condition.

The research, published in the Journal of Neurological Sciences, involved a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 16 adults who experienced cluster headaches. Participants received either three doses of psilocybin or a placebo, spaced five days apart. Two weeks before treatment, participants kept track of their headaches in a diary and continued documenting the frequency, duration, and intensity of their headaches for eight weeks following the first session. By the end of the study, researchers found that participants treated with psilocybin experienced a 50% reduction in the number of cluster headaches they experienced. Furthermore, participants in the psilocybin group noted a reduction in the severity of their pain, with a reported drop to about 10% on a numerical rating scale, and a 37% reduced need for medication to stop the attacks (1).

Previous anecdotal reports and preliminary findings have shown that psilocybin has the potential to offer relief for cluster headaches, yet this study offers more concrete scientific evidence to back these claims. Nevertheless, as promising as these findings are, more research with larger sample sizes will be needed to confirm them. Additional studies will also be required to determine the mechanisms behind psilocybin’s effect on cluster headaches. Although not confirmed, the researchers behind the study hypothesize that the substance’s efficacy is not connected to its hallucinogenic effects. This implies that the pain relief provided by psilocybin could occur without the need for altered states of consciousness, which would further the potential therapeutic uses of psilocybin beyond its psychedelic properties. 

The study received approval from relevant regulatory administrations, including Veteran’s Affairs and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and was conducted under an Investigational New Drug application. While the FDA has not yet approved psilocybin as a treatment for any medical condition, it has been designated as a breakthrough therapy for depression, demonstrating its potential therapeutic benefits that have yet to be completely researched.


References

  1. A.D. Schindler, Emmanuelle, R. Andrew Sewell, Christopher H Gottschalk, L. Taylor Flynn, Yutong Zhu, Brian P Pittman, Nicholas V Cozzi, and Deepak C D’Souza. 2024. “Psilocybin Pulse Regimen Reduces Cluster Headache Attack Frequency in the Blinded Extension Phase of a Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of the Neurological Sciences 460 (May): 122993–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jns.2024.122993.

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Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

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