Cluster headaches are absolutely not a common form of chronic headache. They are fairly rare, affecting .1% of the population, and are extremely debilitating; many sufferers commit suicide rather than suffer through the pain.
Here is an amazing talk by Bob Wold, the guy who founded Cluster Busters, the non-profit organization that's partnering with Harvard to do the research on psilocybin as a treatment:
"and in alleviating the anxiety experienced by terminally ill cancer patients."
Here is the talk by one of the researchers who was testing psilocybin for treating anxiety due to terminal cancer:
Both are among my all time favorite talks, both are extremely powerful and moving. I submitted them to TED as potential talks last year, but apparently no luck so far.
Migraine has a prevalence between 10 and 20%.
The chronology of migraine and cluster headache differs, but they are both chronic issues.
Untreated migraine attacks last several hours and recur ususally at least once per month. ~10% of Migraine sufferer end up abusing pain killers, which increases the attack frequency and leaves them with a permanent, milder background headache.
Cluster attacks last between 15 and 180 minutes (usually less than 1 hour) and recur several times per day during several weeks, then remit, only to replase later on (often at the same period of the week). Hence the name "cluster".
Around 1/1000 cluster patients have "untractable chronic cluster headache", ie daily attacks without interruptions, that resist to medical treatment. (I don't remember the prevalence of drug-sensitive chronic CH).
What does the similarity to serotonin have to say in favor of the drug?
If you want to boost your serotonin levels, it's trivial to do so directly by taking 5-HTP, St. John's Wort, or tryptophan supplements, all of which you can get at your local pharmacy without a prescription.
And be cautious: excess serotonin in the human body is thought to be bad for heart health, which is why supplements like 5-HTP are sometimes prescribed with Carbidopa to slow the 5-HTP -> serotonin transition outside of the brain (Carbidopa doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier, so 5-HTP -> serotonin is unchecked within the brain, whereas it's slowed outside of it), so not as much serotonin ends up in your bloodstream. I have no idea if DMT has similar heart-unfriendly properties to serotonin, but the point is, saying that it's similar chemically and that the substance exists in our body doesn't necessarily mean it's a great thing to take. Our bodies are careful balances of thousands of different chemicals, and some of them are only there in trace amounts, it can absolutely be dangerous to throw the balance out of whack (though if I had to guess, in DMT's case a couple doses is probably not such a problem).
I'm not necessarily knocking recreational drugs: I've dabbled and enjoyed, but chemical similarity is not a good enough reason to assume that something is either safe, effective, or in any way good for you - there are many compounds that are extremely close to things that we find in our bodies that are very dangerous.
...which is exactly why we need more legitimate studies on these things, IMO. I'm glad that the tide is starting to shift on this, we should know a lot more about the potential benefits and risks of all the substances that people ingest, whether they typically ingest them for fun, or for health.
How? How does making you see things that aren't real challenge any hierarchies?
While LSD and psilocybin do sometimes cause people to hallucinate, this is only one small part of the psychedelic experience. The real value is in how the drugs change your thinking. It would take an entire book to explain this, but here are a few YouTube videos to give you the basic idea:
It's difficult to explain how exactly they challenge hierarchies, but the 35,000 foot overview would be that psychedelics tend to make one more prosocial, whereas hierarchies tend to be fueled by antisocial behaviors. They also tend to give one self-confidence and internalize one's locus of control, whereas again hierarchies can only exist when people lack self-confidence and have relatively external locii of control. Essentially hierarchies are built on the backs of those trying to fill some sort of void in their lives, whereas psychedelics undermine this by giving one perspective and making one whole.
Here is the best description I've found:
"What is the psychedelic experience? For me it's the full and overwhelming realization of all the beauty, love, and pain, the wonder and possibility, of the human experience. For the first time you see your life truly objectively, what's going wrong, and what's going right. You grasp and grapple with how you can do better, and you are overcome by the newfound desire to strengthen your community, your relationships, and your karma. And so it proceeds for the next 4 to 6 hours.
And as the raw intensity of the experience fades, it leaves behind this lasting sense of optimism, hope, and strength, a sense that something essential has been renewed, replenished, and maybe even reborn. Above all you're left with a need to make things better, to help others, and to improve your life. And at last you have the strength and vigor you need, without which action was not possible.
The morning after taking LSD it's not uncommon for people to re-enroll in school, restart their job search, or reunite with old friends. There is this sense that whatever was holding us back is dead, we've come to terms with it, and now the power is back in our hands.
It's an experience that will shake your faith in society while simultaneously restoring your faith in yourself, the meaningfulness of existence, and your ability to make a difference.
It should be said that a trip can also be the worst experience of your life; you can live through the biggest fears you could not imagine that even existed. I have been tripping about five times in my life and most of the trips were of mixed nature. I have felt the supreme beauty and I have felt the supreme fear. In retrospective both are worth it.
(As an aside, I don't take YouTube very seriously on the whole unless I happen to know the specific person who made and uploaded the videos.)
He wasn't joking you know.....why do you think such normally respectable people talk about this...hell man, I'm likely more conservative than you!
A hallucination is the perception of something that is not there at all, and it generally means that the thing is sincerely perceived as real.
Psychedelic experiences typically fulfil neither of these criteria.
To call such experiences mere "hallucinations" or "perceptual disturbances" is both reductionist and dismissive.
However I think it's appropriate vocabulary when attempting objective analysis of neurological/psychological phenomena. Reductionism is an inevitable and valid criticism of any such analysis.
(When I said "real" in this instance I was referring to the physical existence of objects perceived, your ability to reach out and touch them. I wasn't trying to make a value judgement about the validity or authenticity of anyones subjective experiences.)
Without getting in to a deep conversation on objectivity, neurology, and psychology, I'll just say that I don't think these issues are so clear cut as to allow anyone to definitively say that he's on the side of truth and the phenomena he describes are "nothing but X", whatever that "X" may be.
"When I said "real" in this instance I was referring to the physical existence of objects perceived, your ability to reach out and touch them."
There are plenty of things that, even according to the "scientific" world view, purportedly exist and yet can't be touched or directly percieved, such as x-rays and atoms.
This document shows the projected timeline for legalizing MDMA for medical purposes: http://maps.org/prospectus.pdf
Essentially the MDMA phase 2 trials are going to continue for another 2 - 3 years, at which point there will be an end-of-phase-2 meeting with the FDA, where they will come up with a plan for phase 3 studies. Phase 3 will take another 3 - 5 years, and that's assuming they're able to raise all the money it's going to take. However, it's looking like there is a good chance of getting MDMA legalized within ten years for medical use if MAPS can raise the money.
Psilocybin is also close to getting moved to schedule 2 or even schedule 3. However, AFAIK the research that's being done isn't formally designed to turn psilocybin into a prescription drug, so I'm not entirely sure how the current research gets used going forward.
Most research into the medical benefits of marijuana has been stalled because of Obama. Essentially the person Obama appointed has decided to block MAPS from getting any marijuana to use for studies that might show potential benefits from marijuana, so even though the FDA keeps approving their studies they can't actually go forward with any of them.
"Recreational drugs" can be used in respectful ways. To many they are holy and sacred.
They can enhance your creativity, open your eyes to the wonder of the universe around you, and gift you with empathy for all living creatures.
With them you can experience death and rebirth and profoundly transform the way you understand and relate to the world. They can be intensely therapeutic.
There is certainly a stigma against all that, and against certain drugs and experiences which buck against the need for many people to reduce life to a little tiny and orderly box under their command where they can channel your world view and your understanding of yourself and others in a manner of their liking.
Yet despite all of their efforts they can not fully resist the deep need of humanity to transcend their ordinary state of consciousness. Each society has sanctioned ways of doing this, whether it's through certain approved substances (like alcohol), rituals, or ordeals.
Curiously, societies tend to differ as to which mind altering substances are prohibited and which are allowed. Usually it's the substances with a long tradition of use in the given society that are allowed, and the newer substances which are prohibited. The very same substances which are allowed and even praised in one society might be despised and prohibited in others (alcohol, mushrooms, and marijuana are some great examples).
Mind altering substances which a particular society is encountering for the first time and the use of which can not be easily fit in to the dominant culture's traditions are usually seen as a threat.
But this can change over time as the members of that society get more familiar with the substances and learn to use them in socially sanctioned ways.
If you can find me one junkie who stood on principle and quit cold turkey just because they ran out of money, I will seriously reconsider my position. But I know you can't, because that's not how addiction works.
Yet most of society would hesitate to label having a beer "bad use". Why? Probably because we're used to it, it's not a boogyman.
Addiction is bad.
In the case of common substances such as ethanol, society at large is generally pretty good at separating the two concepts, but when the substance becomes somewhat more obscure people freak the shit out for no apparent reason.
Do you characterize people with other drug sensitivities as "unable to handle their [Advil/Codeine/Penicillin/Accutane/etc]" ?
A drug makes 1% or 0.1% of its users go insane can still reasonably be characterized as very dangerous.
> And what sorts of drugs will not mess you up when taken in "recreational" dosages?
Alcohol is one, if we change "not addictive" to "not always addictive".
Alcohol certainly can be powerfully addictive, but you can also use it periodically in small doses throughout your adult life without becoming dependent.
Alcohol certainly can be massively destructive, but, depending on your definition of a recreational dose, it not. It can actually have health benefits, and is associated with longevity.
Basically the best predictor of serious drug abuse is whether someone had a highly adverse childhood. Those who do are 4600% more likely to use injection drugs then those who didn't. Essentially every single street level drug addict was abused as a child. If you didn't suffer serious abuse as a child then you could use the same drug without developing an abusive relationship with it. (Listen to the public radio interview with the Mator Gabe I linked to, and also read the adverse childhood experience study and specifically the analysis of the drug addiction portion.)
2) The norms of a person's peer group and also why the person is using the drug are also very good predictors of how likely a person is to get addicted. E.g. someone using a drug to escape from emotional pain is much more likely to get addicted to a drug than someone using it for analgesic or spiritual purposes.
3) The method of consumption also plays an enormous role in how likely someone is to become addicted. The faster the drug hits you, the more likely you are to become addicted. Taking a drug transdermally is less addictive than eating it, eating a drug is less addictive than taking it sublingually or snorting it, snorting a drug is less addicting than injecting it, and injecting a drug is less addictive than smoking it. That's why you can drink coca tea several times a day indefinitely without becoming addicted, whereas people smoking crack get addicted extremely quickly.
4) There are basically two components of addiction, physical addiction and 'moreishness'. Physical addiction is a result of how increasing your neurotransmitter levels decreases your density of receptors for those neurotransmitters, so once you stop taking a drug you don't have enough neurotransmitters anymore so you can be in enormous pain (depending on the drug, the method of administration, etc.). The vast majority of people can just deal with the pain and it's not a big deal. But for those with severe depression, a history of abuse, or other mental problems, they don't have enough inner strength to deal with this pain so they just keep using the drug until it kills them. It's actually very very similar to the studies on 'learned helplessness' that they do with rats, where they see how long they swim before they drown. (The rats with depression just give up and drown much faster than the normal rats, even though they can physically swim just as well.)
The second issue is with the 'moreishness' of a drug. There are a few drugs, especially stimulants, where there is a very short high followed by a ridiculously wicked comedown. With these drugs people tend to just keep doing the drug until they run out of it. The best example of this is probably MDPV, which is usually marketed as 'bath salts'. When people tell you that quitting crack is a joke compared to quitting this drug, you know it's probably bad news. But again, those without severe mental issues do eventually manage, they're just in a world of pain for about a week.
5) The worst drugs to quit if you've been severely addicted are benzos (e.g. xanax, ativan, valium, etc.), and also methadone and some of the other synthetic opiates. Even heroin addicts get through the worst of their symptoms in a week or so, whereas xanax addicts can't sleep for up to a year or more. And what's worse, they feel like they're constantly being electrocuted over and over, they can't think straight, and there are plenty of other horrific issues as well. So basically you don't want to get addicted to drugs with horrific physical withdrawals like xanax, and you don't want to use drugs that are ridiculously moreish, like MDPV, but other than that drug addiction is almost entirely a function of the person and not the molecule.
Obviously you want to follow best practices when using any drug. E.g. if you want to try psychedelics then read Neal Goldsmith's new book Psychedelic Healing, which explains how to use the substances safely and effectively. But if you don't have any mental issues, and if you know how to use a given drug safely, then the risks can be minimal as long as you're disciplined enough to actually do everything correctly every time. (Not unlike driving, rock climbing, skiing, etc.)
That's not to say that everyone should go out and start using drugs. But the fact is that according to government estimates, around 89% of Americans use illegal drugs at some point during their lives (at least once). And making poor decisions about drug usage (including legal drugs) kills around 30% of Americans. So while people say you should eat healthy and exercise, and they're right, in fact learning how to use drugs safely has a much better bang for your buck in terms of improving your overall expected health and lifespan.
It's undeniable that when used properly drugs can have enormous benefits for treating medical issues, relaxing, socializing, gaining spiritual understanding, etc. And what's more, I would argue that if you haven't read extensively about and also tried (for most of them) the drugs that have shaped western civilization (alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, sugar, chocolate, tea, coffee, cocaine, lsd, psilocybin, MDMA, mescaline, and opium), you aren't even really fully capable of understanding the world we live in and why society is the way it is. Which isn't to say that everyone should use all the drugs I just mentioned, but I think taking the time to understand not only the health aspects of drugs, but also how these drugs have affected art, architecture, music, the law, medicine, philosophy, psychology, technology, etc. is probably the single best investment one could make in terms of becoming a self-actualized and well-educated person.
 With opiates you also get oxidative damage to receptors. It's effectively the same as having their density reduced, but it's worth mentioning because it can be largely preventing with certain supplements, and also possibly reversed with ibogaine.
 http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1877771. N.b. it's possible that alcohol-related fatalities have been wildly exaggerated by the NHTSA.
 I might actually add ayahuasca to this list as well, though I didn't include it because it hasn't really had any impact on western civilization, at least not yet. It seems like smoked DMT may end up being important as well, though as of yet its contributions have been fairly peripheral.
The Psychedelics Experience by Peter Stafford
Pikhal by Alexander Shulgin
Acid Dreams by Lee and Shlain
The Illuminatus Trilogy by Shea and Wilson
Plants of the Gods by Richard Evans Schultes
The Archaic Revival by Terrence McKenna
The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide by James Fadiman
That should get you started. Good luck, and have a safe trip.
Dependence on drugs that mess with the dopamine system (nicotine, caffeine, amphetamines, cocaine, etc.) is almost completely psychological. The physical withdrawal symptoms are slight in comparison to the category above.
Psychedelic drugs mostly mess with the serotonin system, which has a lower (but non-zero) propensity for producing psychological addiction, owing largely to the fact that the tolerance curve is very steep and it takes the brain a few days to reset.
You have a case with benzos, I suppose but in that case physical addiction is far more prominent than psychological. LSD/halluconigens act on the 5-HT receptors and is not psychologically addictive nor pragmatically possible for physical dependence.
Mainstreaming Psychedelics: From FDA to Harvard to Burning Man
This is a very good 60s psychedelic radio station: http://www.techwebsound.com/. Apart from playing very good 60s music, it has a plays (somewhat ironically) a lot of archive recordings of government warnings against LSD, mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs.
Interesting to listen to the formings of society's current attitudes towards drugs.
No. In the 1960s psychedelics were part of the counterculture, whereas today the research and interest is all (purposely) revolving around their potential as tools for the mainstream. In fact that's probably the biggest thing we learned from the 60s, is that if we want these substances to be accepted then we need to integrate them with our existing culture, institutions, and values. If you go to any of the conferences on the academic research into psychedelics then one of the first things you'll pick up on is how much most of them hate Timothy Leary, or at the very least his legacy.
I'd be interested to see them if you still have links.