Sunday, November 13, 2011

Treating "Suicide Headaches"

I spent an amazing three days at the Drug Policy Alliance conference in Los Angeles this month, absorbing a wealth of information about the damage our draconian "War on Drugs" is causing society. The video below was aired during one of the panel discussions, and I thought it was especially effective at personalizing the social costs of these misguided policies.

It's a video of someone experiencing a cluster headache attack, also known as a "suicide headaches". It's a sharp, penetrating, unilateral pain that starts behind the eye and can radiate to the temple, jaw, neck, and shoulders. Attacks can happen more than 10 times a day, and can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours at a time.

Imagine watching a loved one suffer through this. Imagine having to care for them, regularly, as they suffer through this:

The suicide rate amongst people afflicted with this condition is 200% higher than normal. The cause of this condition is unknown, and the medicines & treatments that are normally prescribed to treat the disorder tend to only reduce the length of the attacks. A lifetime of use of these medicines come with debilitating side-effects.

There are, however, substances that have been found to greatly reduce the frequency of these attacks: LSD and Psilocybin

Despite this, and mounting evidence that they're also effective in treating of PTSD and other psychological disorders, (see this article to learn about ongoing research at Harvard and elsewhere), they're both listed as Schedule I in the United States. That means they're illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, process, or distribute without a DEA license. Because of this classification, funding for medical research about these drugs has been stifled, and there's now a misguided and distorted view of psychedelics among the medical community and the general public.

Why? Because people have chosen to use the drug recreationally, (people like the late Steve Jobs) the government has decided we need to be "protected" from these substances. Our government has decided we can't be trusted to make informed, personal decisions about these substances, and need to be threatened with imprisonment and severe social consequences for deciding to try these substances. Under this policy of drug-prohibition, cluster-headache suffers, contemplating suicide, are considered criminals for trying a substance that may very well save their lives.

Does this sound like a reasonable way to deal with drug use?

(More information about the use of psychedelics to treat cluster headaches can be found here: Clusterbusters.)