Follow-up letter tp 20/20

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Posted by Kenn ( on April 25, 2000 at 17:10:05:

Sent 4/25/00

There is a type of headache called CLUSTER HEADACHES which are fairly rare but which can be deadly.

The incidence of suicide while undergoing one of these severely painful attacks seems to be on the rise. I recently heard of a man in Chicago who shot himself during an attack, and another in Australia who ran for a cliff and jumped. It is unknown how many suicides have actually been accomplished, but we believe it to be far more than is reported. Typically, the reports state that the suicide victem was "depressed", usually about loss of job or family. Behind those reports is often the fact that the victem was simply unable to stand the extreme torture of the hellish pain.

These headaches are generally completely debillitating, and sufferers frequently experience several of these a night while they are in the cycle. A cycle can last for weeks or months -- even for years, with perhaps a break of a few weeks or months until the next one begins. They are classified as either cyclic as are these or chronic, where the attacks never really quit coming.

It has been determined by doctors that "Cluster Headaches are the worst natural pain humans can typically suffer," much worse than natural childbirth or losing a limb.

There is a story about a California man who was driving home in a hurry to get medication because his headache was quickly escalating. He had a serious accident where he suffered a broken leg, shattered ankle and collar bone and was nearly knocked unconscious. Still, the only thing on his mind was to continue dragging his broken body home without hesitating, just to get his Emitrix shot. That's how frightening and severe these attacks can become.

Most suicides, according to Dr. Nilaver, neurologist at OREGON HEALTH SCIENCES UNIVERSTIY in Portland, Or., are the result of overdose of pharmaceutical medications -- accidental or deliberate.

There has been very little mention of this malady in the press, and it is becoming a very serious problem, not only in terms of the sheer suffering but in lives and families being devastated by them.

I personally have had such severe attacks that if I could have functioned, I would have without doubt murdered myself just to stop the pain.

I have had these headaches since 1986, estimating well over 30,000 individual attacks! Approximately 10% of these were what I would classify as "suicidal". Knowing that there is a tendency to panic and do something like that, I had to be certain that I had no weapons nearby for the times I reached that unbearable state.

The vast majority of those who suffer from this condition have found no real, lasting relief from any quarter and the actual causes of the headaches are unknown so far. It is interesting that the most consistently effective treatments we have examined have involved the use of certain psychoactive substances, notably LSD and some types of fungi.

So, this is a story that would be of interest to the public and might help those who live or work with a "Clusterhead" to understand why we are the way we are.

Reply to email above or call 503-658-6558.
Kenn Gilson

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