Author: Joanna Kempner, PhD


An award-winning sociologist unearths how a group of ordinary people debilitated by excruciating pain developed their own medicine from home-grown psilocybin mushrooms—crafting near-clinical grade dosing protocols--and fought for recognition in a broken medical system.

Cluster headache, a diagnosis sometimes referred to as a ‘suicide headache,’ is widely considered the most severe pain disorder that humans experience. There is no cure, and little funding available for research into developing treatments. When Joanna Kempner met Bob Wold in 2012, she was introduced to a world beyond most people's comprehension—a clandestine network determined to find relief using magic mushrooms. These ‘Clusterbusters,’ a group united only by the internet and a desire to survive, decided to do the research that medicine left unfinished. They produced their own psychedelic treatment protocols and managed to get academics at Harvard and Yale to test their results. Along the way, Kempner explores not only the fascinating history and exploding popularity of psychedelic science, but also a regulatory system so repressive that the sick are forced to find their own homegrown remedies, and corporate America and university professors stand to profit from their transgressions.

From the windswept shores of the North Sea through the verdant jungle of Peruvian Amazon to a kitschy underground palace built in a missile silo in Kansas, Psychedelic Outlaws chronicles the rise of psychedelic medicine amid a healthcare system in turmoil. Kempner’s gripping tale of community and resilience brings readers on an eye-opening journey through the politics of pain, through the stories of people desperate enough to defy the law for a moment of relief. 

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Registration does not include a copy of the book.

See schedule, registration details, and more information below.


Sunday, June 9, 2024

8:00 PM - 9:15 PM

Navigating Pain, Stigma, and a Broken Medical System (Chapters 1-4) 

We begin where we all start our journey: with pain. Psychedelic Outlaws might tell the story of cluster patients, but their struggle to obtain a correct diagnosis, competent, respectful care, and effective treatment is all too familiar. Join us as Maya Dusenbery, author of Doing Harm, will lead our panel through an interactive discussion and Q&A about medical gaslighting, stigma, and the transformative role of patient communities. 

Interviewer: Maya Dusenbery


Joanna Kempner, PhD

Ainslie Course - Vice President of Clusterbusters

Dawn Buse, PhD - Clinical psychologist and headache researcher

Sunday, June 16, 2024

8:00 PM - 9:15 PM

The Flash Discovery of Psychedelics for Cluster Headache (Chapters 5-10) 

Psychedelic medicine might be all the rage now, but the idea that a tab of acid might improve your health was pretty odd back in the late 1990s. So what made people think that a psychedelic trip could treat their cluster headaches? Join us as Katherine Ellison, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has written about psychedelics for headache disorders, leads our panel through an interactive discussion and Q&A about the wild search for effective treatments for cluster headache, the serendipitous discovery that psychedelics might prevent cluster headache attacks, and what it means to lead an outlaw movement of citizen scientists. 

Interviewer: Katherine Ellison


Joanna Kempner, PhD

Bob Wold - Founder and Executive Director of Clusterbusters

Craig “Flash” Adams - The clusterhead who started the movement

Ethan Russo, MD - Neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher

Sunday, June 23, 2024

8:00 PM - 9:15 PM

Ancient Wisdom & Modern Science: Psychedelics as Medicines (Chapters 11-15) 

Humans used psychedelic substances for thousands of years before Western scientists began to investigate their therapeutic use. After an explosion of research in the 1950s and 60s, the 1970s saw a backlash that shut down research until the start of the new century. Join us as Joe Moore, the co-founder and CEO of Psychedelics Today, leads our panel through an interactive discussion and Q&A about the rich history of psychedelic treatments for headaches—from the traditional uses of peyote and DMT-rich plants by indigenous peoples to the fascinating characters and conflicts that have been pivotal in the modern revival of psychedelic research.


Joe Moore


Joanna Kempner, PhD

Bob Wold - Founder and Executive Director of Clusterbusters

Marsha Weil - Original Board Member of Clusterbusters

Lucas Richert, PhD - Professor and drug history author

Sunday, June 30, 2024

8:00 PM - 9:15 PM

Can Psychedelics Revolutionize the Treatment of Chronic Pain? (Chapters 16 - Conclusion) 

With one in five people living with chronic pain and the crackdown on opioids as a treatment option, there is an urgent need for new and effective treatments for physical pain. Can psychedelic medicines be a key part of solving this problem? Can psychedelics be integrated into the existing medical system? Join us as Oshan Jarow, a writer for Vox's Future Perfect with a focus ranging from psychedelics to the political economy, leads our panel through an interactive discussion and Q&A about what is known about psychedelics for pain, what is being studied, and how much opportunity there is for these substances to reduce suffering. 

Interviewer: Oshan Jarow


Joanna Kempner, PhD

Emmanuelle Schindler, MD, PhD - Headache specialist and psychedelic researcher

Joel Castellanos, MD - Pain medicine specialist and psychedelic researcher

Ken Maxwell - Clusterhead and clinical trial participant



All proceeds from these events will go to Clusterbusters for their ongoing support of the cluster headache community. Tickets are donation-based, with a suggested donation of $40 for the four webinar series. We are following a Pay-What-You-Can model where you can select the amount that is right for you. We don’t want cost to keep anyone from participating in this series. 

For any registrants that cannot join one or more of the webinars, we will provide links to the recorded sessions. 


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