facebook pixel

Alternative Treatments for Cluster Headaches

Article Sections

    Some individuals with Cluster Headache respond favorably to traditionally prescribed medications and some do not. Clusterbusters offers information for trying alternative preventative and abortive methods – main page for the management of Cluster Headache. The Clusterbusters Method involves dosing with naturally occurring substances called tryptamines. Some individuals use tryptamines recreationally, for their psychoactive hallucinogenic effects.

    Taken at sub-hallucinogenic dosing levels for the treatment of Cluster Headache, tryptamines become lifesaving medicines, after other legally recognized treatment options have failed. (Legal Information and Warnings.) Tryptamines affect serotonin and provide neuro-vasoconstriction, like some of the traditionally prescribed medications such as sumatriptan and DHE. When taken at elevated doses, these tryptamines can create a hallucinogenic effect. Psilocybin and lysergic acid amide (LSA) are the most commonly used tryptamines in the Clusterbusters Method.

    Psilocybin is found in the psilocybe family of mushrooms. LSA is found in seeds of certain flowering vines, such as the Rivea corymbosa (RC) and the Hawaiian baby woodrose (HBWR). Many cluster patients report a favorable Response of Cluster Headache to LSA Seeds. A less commonly used, though perhaps the most effective tryptamine in the Clusterbusters Method, is lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). These indoleamine hallucinogens are often reported to work just as well or more than traditional medications.

    The practice of using tryptamines to abort or prevent cluster headache attacks is often called “busting.”

    Clusterbusters has also been involved in the research of a synthetic tryptamine which removes the hallucinogenic effect of LSD—BOL-148 (bromination in 2/bromo-LSD). BOL-148 showed promising results in a German study and more research is underway.

    There are similar compounds such as Ketamine (which can be prescribed by certain doctors), MDMA, DMT, and Mescaline that may also work to abort and prevent cluster headache attacks.

    Fast Statistics on Cluster Headache and Indoleamine Hallucinogens

    • A 2006 study conducted at Harvard Medical School found remarkable results in CH patients and LSD or psilocybin mushrooms:
      • Psilocybin reports:
        • 22 of 26 patients said psilocybin aborted their attacks.
        • 25 of 48 patients said cluster cycle was terminated.
        • 18 of 19 patients said psilocybin extended their remission periods.
      • LSD reports:
        • 7 of 8 patients reported LSD terminated cluster cycle.
        • 4 of 5 patients said LSD extended remission periods.
    • A 2017 qualitative thematic analysis of user accounts in forum discussions found:
      • CH patients consider illegal psychoactive substances as a last resort.
      • There is little to no interest in the psychoactive impact of these compounds.
      • Patients choose sub-psychoactive doses to avoid or limit the “trip” effect.
    • Patients reported prophylactic and acute treatment for cluster headache using psychedelic tryptamines: LSD and psilocybin mushrooms.

     

    Tryptamines and Clusterbusters: A Historical Summary 

    The first use of tryptamines to treat Cluster Headache in recent years was reported to the clusterheadaches.com message board in 1998 by a fellow calling himself Flash. Following some intense debate and discussion, others began trying Flash’s idea and reporting their experience on the message board.

    A participant on the message board collected the discussions and reports of tryptamine treatments and posted them on what is now the clusterbusters.org website. Another participant began rearranging these discussions to better follow each individual’s reports on the treatment, and then began collecting reports as they appeared on the clusterheadaches.com message board. He continued this for several years and compiled a database of the reports and results.

    The results from this collection of stories do not represent a scientific study. They are based on voluntary reports by unknown people using screen names to post to an online discussion board.

    The compiler of these reports was careful to include every report, whether the results were favorable or unfavorable, detailed or vague. He was careful to make a conservative judgement and use his best efforts to determine the meaning and results of these reports.

    Most of the reports collected are stored in an anonymous archive maintained by Clusterbusters—all reports showing negative results are included, and most of the positive reports—only a few of the positive have been skipped because of extreme brevity and lack of useful information. Very few were dropped from the archive by requests for confidentiality, or because of suspected pranksterism.

    The compiler tracked the results, being conservative in deciding whether a report is positive, and keeping track of all reports, whether or not a result was noted.
    Reports of the tryptamines not showing significant relief were counted as negative reports. Reports from those showing relief, but where the individuals stopped using the treatments for other reasons, were also counted as negative.

    The tables below show the numbers. The columns list results from all reporters, from those indicating they have the chronic or episodic types of clusters, and those whose reports don’t indicate having either type.

    The “POS” row shows those reporting significant relief, “NEG” row includes reports of little or no relief or abandonment of the treatment for other reasons. “INDT” for indeterminate, are reports from which the results are unclear of the individual simply doesn’t say.

    The table below shows the results reported from those using psilocybin, LSA seeds (RC or HBWR), and those using LSD, and a few who smoked DMT or drank ayahuasca.

    The large number of indeterminate reports are a real problem when trying to use this information to assess the effectiveness of the treatment, and the archived stories are only meant to record experiences and not provide a valid survey of effectiveness.

    Some people reported starting the treatment but did not follow up with reporting results. Others posted to ask for advice, then discontinued posting after their questions were answered. Some incomplete reports may be indicative of unsuccessful treatment, however, when some individuals returned to posting a few years later, they reported having had favorable results.

    To adjust for these inconsistencies and provide an estimate of effectiveness, the compiler omitted the indeterminate reports in the first table below.
    The second table shows an attempt to combine the indeterminate reports with the known results in various ways – distributing them to the positive or negative results categories. The “DIST 50/50” columns show the results when half of the indeterminates are assigned to each of the positive and negative categories.

    The “ALL NEG” column counts all the indeterminates as negative, and the “ALL POS” columns counts them all as positive. The last column shows the range of percentages assigned to positive and negative.

    *NOT COUNTING INDETERMINATES

    *DISTRIBUTING INDETERMINATES

    Legal Information

    With some exceptions, in most places worldwide, it is illegal to buy, sell, grow, or use tryptamines. Presume that all tryptamines are always illegal and that obtaining or using them comes with a legal risk, of felony or misdemeanor charges. However, the law can be nuanced and complex and vary widely from place to place. For those reasons, we suggest proceeding with caution and discretion in relationship to governing laws, and consulting with a licensed attorney familiar with the laws in your location.

    WARNINGS!

    In addition to possible legal consequences, there are some other things to keep in mind if you are considering medicating with tryptamines:

    • Take no medication or treatment without first consulting with a physician.
    • Tryptamines and some of the chemicals found in natural substances containing tryptamines can cause miscarriage. Do not take tryptamines if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant.
    • Those diagnosed in the past or present with a psychotic disorder, or with biological parents or siblings diagnosed with a psychotic disorder should not take tryptamines, including LSD, psilocybin, DMT and LSA.
      • Psychotic disorders include, but are not limited to schizophrenia, delusional disorder, and some affective (mood-related) disorders.
      • Tryptamines may exacerbate symptoms of psychosis or trigger psychosis in people with a history of the disorder, or with immediate family members who experience psychosis.

    Even when dosing with tryptamines at sub-hallucinogenic levels, experiencing their psychoactive effects can occur unexpectedly; tryptamines should be taken only in a setting where one feels secure and with known and trusted others.

    Taking tryptamines during or immediately after a period of emotional upheaval, such as a relationship breakup or the death of a loved one, for example, may intensify unwelcome emotions.

    Tryptamines cause physiological effects. Especially those with heart disease, high blood pressure, circulation problems, and/or liver disease should seek medical advice before using any tryptamine.

    Drug Interactions 

    Sometimes one drug will enhance, block, or alter entirely the intended actions of another.  

    The Clusterbusters treatment method works best when drugs that have potential for interacting with tryptamines have been cleared from the body. Many with Cluster Headache take some of these drugs for other conditions and should talk with their licensed health care provider before making any medication changes. Some drugs must be discontinued slowly over time, under direct medical supervision. Never stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting with your physician.

    Psychoactive effects of tryptamines may be greatly intensified while taking other medications, especially those prescribed to treat neurological and/or mental health disorders. These drugs include but are not limited to Lithium (also commonly prescribed to treat Cluster Headache) and Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as Nardil or Parnate.

    Many medications commonly prescribed to Cluster Headache will interfere with or block the effectiveness of tryptamines. When the Clusterbusters method doesn’t work, often it is because the following drugs are interfering:

    Triptans

    Sumatriptan (Imitrex) is the most commonly prescribed abortive treatment for cluster headache attacks. It also may be the most common tryptamine blocker known to interfere with the Clusterbusters Method. Before dosing with a tryptamine, all triptans should be discontinued for at least 5 days. These include:

    • Sumatriptan (Imitrex®)
    • Zolmatriptan (Zomig®)
    • Rizatriptan (Maxalt®)
    • Naratriptan (Amerge®)
    • Frovatriptan (Frova®)
    • Almotriptan (Axert®)
    • Eletriptan (Relpax®)

    Steroids

    Corticosteroids, particularly Prednisone and Prednisolone, are commonly prescribed preventatives. While they can be effective, they are reported to block tryptamines.

    Verapamil and calcium channel blockers

    Verapamil is a blood-pressure drug often prescribed for the long-term, preventative treatment of cluster headache. It is reported that taking a calcium channel blocker and tryptamine concurrently will interfere with the Clusterbusters treatment method. Verapamil is known by the brand names Isoptin, Verelan, Verelan PM, Calan, Bosoptin and Covera-HS.

    Anti-Convulsants

    Anti-seizure medications, such as Topiramate (Topamax), Depakote, and Tegretol, are reported to block the effectiveness of tryptamines and interfere with the Clusterbusters Method.

    Ergotamines

    The molecules of ergotamines are very similar in shape to the tryptamines. This means they fill the same neuroreceptors as tryptamines, and interfere with “busting” treatment. They should never be taken concurrently with tryptamines. Ergotamines include but are not limited to Dihydroergotamine (DHE), Sansert, Cafergot, and Ergomar.

    SSRIs

    SSRIs, or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, widely used to treat mood disorders may be blockers. Because tryptamines and SSRI’s each affect serotonin, it is possible that using them concurrently can interfere with the Clusterbusters Method. Common SSRIs include Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil and Zoloft. Other, similar serotonin-affecting drugs include Effexor, Pristiq and Cymbalta. Drugs known as tricyclics, including Elavil and Tofranil may also interfere with tryptamine treatment.

    Opiates

    Opiates and opioid pain killers are entirely ineffective for aborting or preventing cluster headache. Their use, concurrent with tryptamines, is reported to interfere with the Clusterbusters treatment.

    Non-Blockers

    Many substances are unlikely to interact adversely with tryptamines and may include:

    • Antibiotics
    • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), including aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc.)
    • Antacids and anti-ulcer medications
    • Asthma medications
    • Insulin
    • Caffeine
    • Energy drinks
    • B-Complex and multi vitamins
    • Diovan (blood pressure)
    • Protonix (for acid reflux)
    • Indomethacin
    • Meclizine and Dimenhydramine  (anti-nausea agents)
    • Lipitor

    For easier navigation, Clusterbusters has split the tryptamine pages into three:

    in Treatment Options