Banned Drugs May Be Cure-all

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney, Australia)
Local; p. 36

March 20, 2005

Banned drugs may be cure-all


[Notes and corrections, in brackets, by Ilsa Jerome]

So you suffer from super migraines?

Well, in the future your doctor might be prescribing LSD.

That infamous mind-altering drug from the ’60s could soon be tested on people who suffer from what’s known as cluster headaches.

[Cluster headaches are a rare, severely painful form of headache that is related to but different from the more common migraine.]

These are severe migraines that, for some people, occur several times a day for weeks on end.

[Cluster headaches can be chronic or episodic. Episodic headaches occur one or more times a day during a specific period.]

It’s a debilitating condition and treatment options are limited. That’s where the LSD may offer some relief.

[There are a number of treatment options for interrupting a headache in progress, but these have problems, such as needing to use them frequently. There are fewer means of stopping cycles of cluster headaches.]

Some people claim their cluster headaches disappear when they use LSD.

[While this may be the case, more information is currently known about people who have used psilocybin, the main active component of “magic mushrooms,” to treat thei rcluster headaches. Precisely, some cluster headache sufferers report that psilocybin can interrupt a cycle of cluster headaches and that it can interrupt a headache in progress.]

And while that might sound fanciful, Harvard University psychiatrist John Halpern thinks there may be something in it.

[The study that is planned to take place at Harvard Medical School affiliated McLean Hospital is to study both psilocybin and LSD in people with cluster headaches.]

That’s because one of the medicines currently used to treat migraines is chemically similar to LSD, although it doesn’t have any of the hallucinogenic effects.

[It is not clear why psilocybin or LSD can interrupt or reduce cluster headaches; it might relate to their activity at serotonin receptors. But the medication the reporter is probably thinking of, methysergide, actually has opposite activities on at least one serotonin receptor when compared with LSD.]

LSD developed a bad name in the flower power era and became illegal by the mid-1960s.

Hallucinogenic drug research is about to have a revival, it seems. In the last few years, several scientists have voiced their concern that the medical potential of hallucinogenic drugs remained untapped.

New research proposals have been put forward; indeed some patient trials have already begun.

Ecstasy is now being given to people suffering post-traumatic stress disorder in the hope it can overcome their symptoms.

[Many researchers place MDMA in a drug class separate from psilocybin or LSD, referred to as “entactogens.” The study referred to here is conducted by Dr. Michael Mithoefer and is underay. There is a planned research study, also to be conducted by John Halpern, that will examine MDMA in people with anxiety relating to advanced stage cancer.]

And a researcher is hoping to soon give the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, psilocybin, to terminal cancer patients.

[This study, conducted by Dr. Charles Grob of UCLA-Harbor Medical Center, is already under way.]

Peyote cactus has also shown promise in treating alcoholism.

But don’t bank on using these illegal drugs any time soon. It will take a long time for them to get through the approval process.

Read more about human research with MDMA and psychedelic drugs.

The (Sydney, Australia) Sunday Telegraph reported on MAPS-supported research into psilocybin and LSD in people with cluster headaches to take place at McLean Hospital. The report contains a number of factual errors concerning the research and other research studies mentioned throughout the piece.