Editor’s note: Psilocybin mushrooms are classified by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule I substance, which it defines as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This category includes marijuana and heroin. Penalties for possession and sale of psilocybin vary by state, as this essay demonstrates. Readers who are experiencing substance abuse issues in the U.S. can call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
Neurologists say it’s some of the worst pain known to medical science — right up there with kidney stones, childbirth and amputation without anesthesia. It’s so bad that as many as 25% of sufferers report suicidal intentions during the course of their ailment.
I was 33 and living in Portland, Oregon, when I first started getting them. They came like clockwork every night at 1, dragging me out of my dreams and onto my feet. The pain was unbearable — like a dental pick raking the inside of my skull. Tears streamed from my left eye, my eyelid sagged, my nostril clogged.
Invariably I found myself on the floor, clawing carpet tendrils, sucking air through clenched teeth. Noises I didn’t recognize as my own came gurgling out my throat, as if by their own accord. Sometimes during a particularly bad episode, I was reduced to sobbing. I wished for any kind of relief, even death.
But there was no escape. For an hour or sometimes more, there was only the pain. And after the