Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, is gaining renewed interest as a potential treatment for a variety of health conditions. Now, a new research review suggests migraines should be added to that list.
Psilocybin mushrooms have long been used recreationally as hallucinogens. This substance changes the perspective of the user and his or her environment.
Research on psilocybin
Medical research into psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD began in the 1950s and famously ended after a wave of recreational use by the "counterculture" of the 60s. In recent years there has been a new interest in these substances. Researchers at institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, New York University and the University of California are studying psilocybin as a treatment for conditions such as depression, addiction and eating disorders.
While most research has focused on psychiatric conditions, psilocybin has also shown promising results against cluster headaches and migraines. In the new review, recently published in the journal Current Pain and Headache Reports, Dr. Emmanuelle Schindler, assistant professor of neurology at Yale School of Medicine, the research done so far.
So will her own 2021 pilot study, where Schindler and her colleagues tested the effects of psilocybin — given under medical supervision — in 10 patients with migraines. They found that a single low dose of the drug halved the participants' headache frequency over the next two weeks, compared to a two-week period after they received a placebo.
“This was a preliminary, proof-of-concept study,” Schindler stressed. To date, that study is the only published clinical trial of a psychedelic drug in the treatment of migraines, according to Schindler. And it was too small and too short, she said, to draw firm conclusions. But the findings spurred her team to start a somewhat larger trial — of about two dozen migraine patients. This investigation is currently underway.
Medicines for migraines
In the United States alone, approximately 39 million people suffer from migraines, according to the American Migraine Foundation. In addition to intense headaches, the condition often causes symptoms such as nausea, visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound.
There are several medications that affect headache attacks. However, no treatment works for everyone and people can become resistant over time. Therefore, there is a need for additional options. The idea of using psilocybin for migraines is not far-fetched. Many psychedelics act on serotonin receptors just like migraine drugs.
People with cluster headaches are known to microdose with mushrooms or LSD. Cluster headaches, a rare condition, cause severe headaches that can last for weeks to months. When it comes to migraines, Schindler sees psilocybin as a potential “transitional therapy” that can have lasting effects in a single dose or short treatment.
There are already some transitional therapies for migraines, said Dr. Shae Datta, a neurologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City. For example, some patients are given nerve blocks to stop a severe acute attack and bring relief that can last for weeks to months.
In the 2021 trial, Schindler's team treated patients with a dose of psilocybin of 10 milligrams per 70 kilograms of body weight — similar to what has been used in studies of psychiatric disorders. The ongoing trial compares a single dose of psilocybin with two doses given about a week apart. And it follows patients for two months instead of two weeks. Safety comes first. Psilocybin is given under medical supervision so that patients can be monitored.
Source: USnews.com (EN)