A recent medical review highlights the prospect of utilizing psilocybin to treat migraines — a condition afflicting approximately 39 million people in the U.S.
The first-of-its-kind review, led by Dr. Emmanuelle Schindler of Yale School of Medicine, revealed that a single low dose of psilocybin decreased the participants’ headache frequency by fifty percent over the subsequent two weeks, compared to a similar period after they were given a placebo.
The review includes findings from Schindler’s 2021 pilot trial, where ten migraine sufferers received medically supervised psilocybin treatments. The new research was published in the journal Current Pain and Headache Reports.
Migraines are notorious for causing intense head pain and other symptoms like nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. While there are several prescription medications currently available, including triptans, ergots, and gepants, they don’t always work for migraine sufferers — approximately 39 million just in the U.S., according to data from the American Migraine Foundation.
“But no one treatment works for everyone,” Schindler said in a statement. “And a treatment that was effective for someone can stop working over time.” This underscores the need for alternative treatments.
Psilocybin, the psychedelic substance found in more than 200 types of mushrooms, stimulates specific brain receptors for the chemical serotonin, making it akin to many standard migraine medications. According to Schindler, some individuals who suffer from cluster headaches have self-treated with small doses of psilocybin or the synthesized psychedelic LSD with success.
“This was a preliminary, proof-of-concept study,” Dr. Schindler said. “We wanted to see if we could catch a signal.”
Last year, Schindler conducted a small trial where three very low doses of psilocybin reduced headache frequency over the course of eight weeks for some patients. She envisions psilocybin as a “transitional” therapy, referring to single or short-term treatments that have long-lasting effects.
Though promising, the study is not sufficient to draw firm conclusions, as it’s the only published clinical trial of a psychedelic drug for migraines. However, the success of this small study has led Schindler’s team to initiate a slightly larger trial involving around two dozen migraine patients.
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