OPEN Foundation

Cluster headache

Collective self-experimentation in patient-led research: How online health communities foster innovation

Abstract

Researchers across academia, government, and private industry increasingly value patient-led research for its ability to produce quick results from large samples of the population. This study examines the role played by self-experimentation in the production of health data collected in these projects. We ask: How does the collaborative context of online health communities, with their ability to facilitate far-reaching collaborations over time and space, transform the practice and epistemological foundations of engaging in n = 1 experimentation? We draw from a digital ethnography of an online patient-led research movement, in which participants engage in self-experiments to develop a protocol for using psilocybe-containing mushrooms as a treatment for cluster headache, an excruciating neurological disease for which there is little medical research and huge unmet treatment need. We find that the collectivizing features of the internet have collectivized self-experimentation. Group dynamics shape everything in “collective self-experimentation,” from individual choices of intervention, reporting of outcomes, data analysis, determinations of efficacy, to embodiment. This study raises important questions about the role that individuals play in the creation of medical knowledge and the data that informs crowdsourced research.

Kempner, J., & Bailey, J. (2019). Collective self-experimentation in patient-led research: How online health communities foster innovation. Social Science & Medicine, 112366. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112366
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Increased use of illicit drugs in a Dutch cluster headache population

Abstract

Introduction

Many patients with cluster headache report use of illicit drugs. We systematically assessed the use of illicit drugs and their effects in a well-defined Dutch cluster headache population.

Methods

In this cross-sectional explorative study, 756 people with cluster headache received a questionnaire on lifetime use and perceived effects of illicit drugs. Results were compared with age and sex-matched official data from the Dutch general population.

Results

Compared to the data from the general population, there were more illicit drug users in the cluster headache group (31.7% vs. 23.8%; p < 0.01). Reduction in attack frequency was reported by 56% (n = 22) of psilocybin mushroom, 60% (n = 3) of lysergic acid diethylamide and 50% (n = 2) of heroin users, and a decreased attack duration was reported by 46% (n = 18) of PSI, 50% (n = 2) of heroin and 36% (n = 8) of amphetamine users.

Conclusion

In the Netherlands, people with cluster headache use illicit drugs more often than the general population. The question remains whether this is due to an actual alleviatory effect, placebo response, conviction, or common pathophysiological background between cluster headache and addictive behaviours such as drug use.

de Coo, I. F., Naber, W. C., Wilbrink, L. A., Haan, J., Ferrari, M. D., & Fronczek, R. (2018). Increased use of illicit drugs in a Dutch cluster headache population. Cephalalgia., 10.1177/0333102418804160
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Psychoactive substances as a last resort—a qualitative study of self-treatment of migraine and cluster headaches

Abstract

Background

Treatment resistant cluster headache and migraine patients are exploring alternative treatments online. The aim of this study was to improve comprehension regarding the use of non-established or alternative pharmacological treatments used by sufferers of cluster headaches and migraines.

Methods

A qualitative thematic analysis of the users’ own accounts presented in online forum discussions were conducted. The forum boards https://shroomery.org/http://bluelight.org, and https://clusterbusters.org/ met the inclusion criteria and were used for the study.

Results

The analysis resulted in six themes: a desperate need for effective treatmentsthe role of the forum—finding alternative treatments and community supportalternative treatment substancesdosage and regimenseffects and treatment results; and adverse effects. The results provide an insight into why, how, and by which substances and methods sufferers seek relief from cluster headache and migraines.

Conclusions

These patients are in a desperate and vulnerable situation, and illicit psychoactive substances are often considered a last resort. There appeared to be little or no interest in psychoactive effects per se as these were rather tolerated or avoided by using sub-psychoactive doses. Primarily, psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide, and related psychedelic tryptamines were reportedly effective for both prophylactic and acute treatment of cluster headache and migraines. Treatment results with cannabis were more unpredictable. No severe adverse events were reported, but it was observed how desperation sometimes spurred risky behavior when obtaining and testing various treatment alternatives. The forum discourse mainly revolved around maximizing treatment results and minimizing potential harms.

Andersson, M., Persson, M., & Kjellgren, A. (2017). Psychoactive substances as a last resort—a qualitative study of self-treatment of migraine and cluster headaches. Harm Reduction Journal14(1), 60. 10.1186/s12954-017-0186-6

Indoleamine Hallucinogens in Cluster Headache: Results of the Clusterbusters Medication Use Survey

Abstract

Cluster headache is one of the most debilitating pain syndromes. A significant number of patients are refractory to conventional therapies. The Clusterbusters.org medication use survey sought to characterize the effects of both conventional and alternative medications used in cluster headache. Participants were recruited from cluster headache websites and headache clinics. The final analysis included responses from 496 participants. The survey was modeled after previously published surveys and was available online. Most responses were chosen from a list, though others were free-texted. Conventional abortive and preventative medications were identified and their efficacies agreed with those previously published. The indoleamine hallucinogens, psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide, and lysergic acid amide, were comparable to or more efficacious than most conventional medications. These agents were also perceived to shorten/abort a cluster period and bring chronic cluster headache into remission more so than conventional medications. Furthermore, infrequent and non-hallucinogenic doses were reported to be efficacious. Findings provide additional evidence that several indoleamine hallucinogens are rated as effective in treating cluster headache. These data reinforce the need for further investigation of the effects of these and related compounds in cluster headache under experimentally controlled settings.

Schindler, E. A., Gottschalk, C. H., Weil, M. J., Shapiro, R. E., Wright, D. A., & Sewell, R. A. (2015). Indoleamine Hallucinogens in Cluster Headache: Results of the Clusterbusters Medication Use Survey. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 1-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2015.1107664

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The use of illicit drugs as self-medication in the treatment of cluster headache: Results from an Italian online survey

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Cluster headache (CH) patients often receive unsatisfactory treatment and may explore illicit substances as alternatives. We aimed to explore this use of illicit drugs for CH treatment.

METHODS:

We invited CH patients from an Internet-based self-help group to complete a questionnaire regarding their therapeutic use of illicit substances.

RESULTS:

Of the 54 respondents, 29 were classified as chronic and 39 were drug-resistant cases. Fifty patients had previously tried subcutaneous sumatriptan, 40 had tried O2, and 48 had tried at least one prophylactic treatment. All 54 patients specified that they were dissatisfied with conventional treatments. Thirty-four patients had used cannabinoids, 13 cocaine, 8 heroin, 18 psilocybin, 12 lysergic acid amide (LSA), and 4 lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

DISCUSSION:

Some patients with intractable CH decided to try illicit drugs concomitantly with cessation of medical care. Most of these patients found suggestions for illicit drug use on the Internet. Many patients seemed to underestimate the judicial consequences of, and had an overestimated confidence in the safety of, such illicit treatments. Physicians are often not informed by patients of their choice to use illicit drugs. This leads to questions regarding the true nature of the physician-patient relationship among dissatisfied CH patients.

Di Lorenzo, C., Coppola, G., Di Lorenzo, G., Bracaglia, M., Rossi, P., & Pierelli, F. (2015). The use of illicit drugs as self-medication in the treatment of cluster headache: Results from an Italian online survey. Cephalalgia. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0333102415583145
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Peak experiences and the afterglow phenomenon: When and how do therapeutic effects of hallucinogens depend on psychedelic experiences?

Abstract

Interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances has recently resumed. During an early phase of human psychedelic research, their therapeutic application in different pathologies had been suggested, and the first evidence for efficacy was provided. The range of recent clinical applications of psychedelics spans from cluster headaches and obsessive-compulsive disorder to addiction and the treatment of fear and anxiety in patients suffering from terminal illness, indicating potentially different therapeutic mechanisms. A variety of approaches in psychotherapy emphasize subjective experiences, such as so-called peak experiences or afterglow phenomena, as differentially mediating therapeutic action. This review aims to re-evaluate earlier and recent concepts of how psychedelic substances may exert beneficial effects. After a short outline of neurophenomenological aspects, we discuss different approaches to how psychedelics are used in psychotherapy. Finally, we summarize evidence for the relationship between subjective experiences and therapeutic success. While the distinction between pharmacological and psychological action obviously cannot be clear-cut, they do appear to contribute differently from each other when their effects are compared with regard to pathologies.

Majić, T., Schmidt, T. T., & Gallinat, J. (2015). Peak experiences and the afterglow phenomenon: When and how do therapeutic effects of hallucinogens depend on psychedelic experiences? Journal of Psychopharmacology. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269881114568040
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Psilocybin – Summary of knowledge and new perspectives

Abstract

Psilocybin, a psychoactive alkaloid contained in hallucinogenic mushrooms, is nowadays given a lot of attention in the scientific community as a research tool for modeling psychosis as well as due to its potential therapeutic effects. However, it is also a very popular and frequently abused natural hallucinogen. This review summarizes all the past and recent knowledge on psilocybin. It briefly deals with its history, discusses the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, and compares its action in humans and animals. It attempts to describe the mechanism of psychedelic effects and objectify its action using modern imaging and psychometric methods. Finally, it describes its therapeutic and abuse potential.

Tylš, F., Páleníček, T., & Horáček, J. (2014). Psilocybin – Summary of knowledge and new perspectives. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 24, 342-365. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.euroneuro.2013.12.006

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The non-hallucinogen 2-bromo-lysergic acid diethylamide as preventative treatment for cluster headache: An open, non-randomized case series

Introduction

Cluster headache (CH) is a stereotyped primary headache characterized by strictly unilateral severe orbital or periorbital pain and categorized as either episodic or chronic (1,2). Its prevalence is 0.1% (3). Oxygen and sumatriptan are the treatments of choice for individual attacks, whereas verapamil, lithium, corticosteroids and other neuromodulators can suppress attacks during cluster periods (1). All standard medication treatments may be ineffective. Surgical treatment may be an option for medication non-responders, including deep brain (4) or occipital nerve stimulation (5). However, serious complications from brain surgery, including death, can occur (6).

An Internet survey of 53 CH patients reported on claims that psilocybin is better at aborting acute attacks than either oxygen or sumatriptan and that LSD and psilocybin are both better at triggering and extending remission than standard drugs (7). However, due to hallucinogenicity and the absence of established medical indication, these drugs are criminalized and placed within the most restrictive Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which sanctions only limited research use. Although the hallucinogenic properties of LSD and psilocybin are undesirable from both regulatory and patient safety perspectives, it was unclear to us at the outset whether a non-hallucinogenic analog could also provide meaningful relief to CH patients. To address the question of whether the CH relief associated with these two structurally diverse compounds is related to the mechanisms triggering intoxication, we decided to investigate the efficacy of a non-hallucinogenic analog of LSD. LSD’s hallucinogenic effects are completely lost when the double bond in the D ring is saturated and with substitution at R2 (e.g. by bromination in 2-bromo-LSD) (BOL-148) (8). BOL-148 has been studied in volunteers (up to 20 mg per os) (9) and in patients suffering from vascular headaches but not, apparently, in patients with CH (9,10). These past studies [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][…]

Karst, M., Halpern, J. H., Bernateck, M., & Passie, T. (2010). The non-hallucinogen 2-bromo-lysergic acid diethylamide as preventative treatment for cluster headache: An open, non-randomized case series. Cephalalgia, 30(9), 1140-1144. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0333102410363490
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Unauthorized Research on Cluster Headache

Perhaps the greatest triumph of unauthorized research on visionary plants and drugs to date is the discovery that small doses of LSD, psilocybin, and LSA (lysergic acid amide) are more effective than any conventional medication in treating the dismal disorder, cluster headache. Five years ago, no one other than cluster headache patients or neurologists had ever heard of cluster headache. Now, treatment of cluster headache is routinely listed among potential therapeutic uses for psychedelics, and has even penetrated popular culture to the point that the character Gregory House, M.D. has used a psychedelic drug to treat headache on the TV show House not once, but twice (Kaplow 2006; Dick 2007)!

The first mention of therapeutic effect from a psychedelic on headache comes from Drs. D. Webster Prentiss and Francis P. Morgan, professors of medicine and pharmacology at Columbian University (now George Washington University), who began to conduct animal and human experiments with peyote in 1894 in order to determine whether or not it had any valuable medicinal properties. Two years later, their report concluded: “The conditions in which it seems probable that the use of mescal buttons will produce beneficial results are the following: In general ‘nervousness,’ nervous headache, nervous irritative cough… [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][etc.].” In their account are a number of cases, including #5: “The same gentleman reports that his wife formerly used to take the tincture [anhalonium 1] for nervous headaches and that it always relieved her. She has them so seldom now that she does not use it” (Prentiss & Morgan 1896).

Sewell, R. A. (2008). Unauthorized Research on Cluster Headache. The Entheogen Review, 16(4), 117-125.
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Response of cluster headache to psilocybin and LSD

Abstract

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 7 of 8 LSD users reported cluster period termination; 18 of 19 psilocybin users and 4 of 5 LSD users reported remission period extension. Research on the effects of psilocybin and LSD on cluster headache may be warranted.

Sewell, R. A., Halpern, J. H., & Pope, Jr., H. G. (2006). Response of cluster headache to psilocybin and LSD. Neurology, 66(12), 1920–1922. http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/01.wnl.0000219761.05466.43
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