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Increased use of illicit drugs in a Dutch cluster headache population

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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.


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.


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.


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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