By Emily Devereux
A patient who struggled with migraines found solace in an unusual remedy. Prescription drugs brought no relief to her debilitating pain and she felt like doctors weren’t taking her seriously. Eventually, she found a thread on Reddit that suggested hallucinogenic mushrooms as potential relief.
After additional research, she surrounded herself with friends, blankets and food, and began her mushroom journey.
The “magic” in magic mushrooms made itself apparent, and the migraines ceased. She ate about a gram of mushrooms once every week or two for a couple of years and though she’s stopped for four years now, her migraines have not returned.
You may have noticed that this patient remains anonymous. While she may be open to sharing her drug explorations in some situations, she doesn’t want it public. Cannabis is legal now but not everything is, and speaking about drugs is still mostly taboo.
But there’s lots to talk about—like how to weigh the risks and benefits of drugs.
“Sure it’s not the ‘demon weed’ or ‘demon shroom’, but it’s also not harmless,” said Dr. Tanya Spencer, a psychologist at the NAIT Student Counselling Centre.
“There is an appeal to prescribing your own medication, or looking for a natural alternative … I’d say in the very general sense, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.”
While things worked out for the now-ex-migraine patient, she’s quick to caution others from following her path, noting the dangers of induced psychosis, bad trips, and negative interactions with prescribed medications such as antidepressants. Spencer takes a balanced approach to the idea of self-administering drugs.
“There’s lots of things that are prescribed or not prescribed that are more and less dangerous, it just seems there’s such a social construction of these ideas that play such a big role in it,” said Spencer. “I mean, I guess part of me is like, if it works, do it.”
She has her concerns about people jumping in without knowing the dangers. Spencer recommends looking into your family’s medical history, as a history of schizophrenia or other mental health conditions increases your risks.
Studies show that cannabis is harmful if used before the age of 25 when your brain is still developing. Spencer says it could be a good idea to wait until around that age to try psychedelics too, since any predispositions to mental health conditions are likely to have expressed themselves by then.
There are precautions to take to avoid a bad trip, like creating a low-stress environment and having friends around—Spencer says about six is the right number.
The ex-migraine patient imagines a future where professionals guide people through the tripping process and provide a safe place to medicinally dose.
“I don’t want to be an advocate for it, and I don’t want to encourage it but, it is an option,” said the patient. “It does fascinate me that something as small as [taking mushrooms] was able to cure something as big the headaches in my life.”