Cluster headaches are extremely painful headaches that tend to affect one particular side of the head, and are often felt around the eye. The pain may radiate through to other parts of the head. Although not fatal in and of itself, the pain is said to be comparable to or even worse than severe burns, the bite of a bullet ant, or giving birth. Cluster headaches can occur everyday (usually at night), with attacks lasting anything between 15 minutes and 3 hours.
Sadly, due to the excruciating nature of cluster headaches, it can result in an increased chance of suicide. Due to the type of pain, the areas cluster headaches affect and the medications used to treat them (e.g. calcium ion channel blockers, lithium, gabapentin, divalproex) it is a condition often compared to trigeminal neuralgia. However, the two have distinct clinical features, even if they may be treated by similar methods.
There is no known cause for cluster headaches, but abnormalities in the body’s biological clock (hypothalamus), an imbalance in serotonin or improper functioning of serotonin receptors, and the use of some heart disease medications like nitroglycerin are potential causes. Unlike migraines or tension headaches, cluster headaches don’t always have triggers like food, stress or hormone levels, but sometimes they do. Light, some types of sound, alcohol, tobacco smoking, and strong scents (e.g. perfumes) may trigger an episode in some.
Cannabis and cannabinoids have shown some efficacy in treating some suffering from cluster headaches, but an almost equal number found cannabis to be a trigger. Cannabinoids may be useful in reducing intracranial pressure in some cluster headaches sufferers, and may also play a part in preventing the release of serotonin during a headache or migraine. Due to its effect on serotonin, psilocybin (and psilocin, the "trip" compound found in magic mushrooms) may be a particularly promising treatment for headache disorders like cluster headaches.
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