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Psychedelics and Cluster Headaches [ONLINE]

February 22 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm

by Psychedelic Society (UK)


with Dr Jonathan Leighton, Dr Brian McGeeny, Corina Breukel & Ainslie Course

Psychedelics and Cluster Headaches

There has been a large recent increase in attention to the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics for mental health. Now, the dramatic benefits are being shown to extend beyond psychological to physical health.

Cluster headaches, notoriously labelled “suicide headaches”, are among the most excruciating conditions known to medicine. Attacks, characterised by a stabbing sensation centred on one eye, can last an hour or longer, usually occur multiple times a day, and have devastating effects on patients’ quality of life. Cycles usually last 1-3 months at a time, but in chronic patients they can last indefinitely without interruption.

Psilocybin, LSD and 5-MeO-DALT have all been found not just to reduce the frequency of attacks but to prevent and abort entire cluster headache cycles. DMT has even been found to halt attacks within seconds. These are benefits that go well beyond what standard medicines can achieve.

Although there are a few clinical trials now underway, the evidence of effectiveness is already overwhelming. There is an urgent need to make these substances available to patients and remove the threat of prosecution for patients who self-medicate.

What causes these agonizing headaches and how can psychedelics provide a solution? What are the obstacles to changing laws and regulations so that patients can access these potentially life-changing medicines? Co-organised with the Organisation for the Prevention of Intense Suffering (OPIS), join us for this panel event as we explore psychedelic science, medicine and policy.


Jonathan Leighton

Jonathan Leighton, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Organisation for the Prevention of Intense Suffering (OPIS), a Swiss think-and-do tank he founded in 2016. OPIS engages in education, advocacy and communication aimed at preventing the suffering of all sentient beings and the promotion of ethical governance. A specific area of focus is the relief of severe pain. OPIS has advocated for access to morphine for cancer patients, organising a panel event at the UN Human Rights Council and co-organising a conference in Burkina Faso with the Ministry of Health. More recently, OPIS has been advocating for legalised access to psychedelics like psilocybin for the treatment of cluster headaches, with a policy paper released in November 2020.

Jonathan is the author of The Battle for Compassion: Ethics in an Apathetic Universe, a sweeping overview of our situation as a species that methodically addresses the question “What matters?” He also produced a short film based on the book. He is currently completing a new book on ethics. Jonathan trained as a molecular biologist with degrees from Harvard University and the University of Basel. His website can be found at: www.jonathanleighton.org


Brian McGeeney

Brian E. McGeeney, MD, MPH, MBA is a neurologist and headache specialist at the John R. Graham Headache Center at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Boston. He is a strong advocate for the use of psychedelics in the treatment of cluster headaches, based on their efficacy, and an appreciated ally of the cluster headache patient community.

Brian previously practised in the pain medicine section of the Boston Medical Center’s Department of Neurology for more than 20 years. He currently serves as Associate Editor for the journal Headache, as a Board Member and Secretary for the Headache Cooperative of New England, and on the Medical Advisory Board of ClusterBusters, and he is a member of several medical societies. Brian attended medical school at the University College of Dublin and earned his MPH and MBA at Boston University.


Ainslie Course

Ainslie Course is a member of the Board of Directors of Clusterbusters (https://clusterbusters.org), a US-based organisation that supports cluster headache patients and advocates for better treatments. Based in Glasgow, her main focus is on raising the profile of Clusterbusters in the UK and Europe. Ainslie has experienced episodic cluster headaches for nearly 36 years and became involved with Clusterbusters some 20 years ago when she had exhausted all pharmaceutical options for treating her cluster headaches. She was a specialist nurse in the area of oral and maxillofacial surgery for many years and now runs a small online business.


Corina Breukel

Corina is the mother of a girl who had chronic cluster headaches for 19 months that were unresponsive to commonly prescribed preventatives. Her quest to find relief for her daughter led to the psychedelic substance 5-MeO-DALT. 5 microdoses stopped the cluster headaches in their tracks, and her daughter has been pain-free for 4½ years. Corina is an advocate for cluster headache patients, offering support and helping them find the best specialists and treatments, and also educating people on the condition.

She is a member of the International Headache Society and the British Association for the Study of Headache and is currently studying for a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. Corina has been a UK-registered osteopath for more than the last 3 decades, with a particular interest in chronic pain and older patients, and is co-chair of Osteopaths for Progress in Headaches and Migraines.


February 22
11:00 am - 1:00 pm
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The Psychedelic Society UK