Feds Approve First LSD Study Since '72

By Dirk Hanson 06/02/11

After 35 years, Swiss scientist is approved to study acid's effects on anxiety over life threatening Illness.

Gasser with the Real Stuff.
Photo via psychointegrator

James Fadiman, who was introduced to the field of psychedelic drugs by his Harvard undergraduate advisor Richard Alpert (later known as Baba Ram Dass), holds the distinction of being the last LSD researcher to be shut down by the U.S. government, when he was at San Francisco State University in 1972.

And that has been the story ever since—that is, until 2008, when Rick Doblin, the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (M.A.P.S.) who conducted some of the earliest research on MDMA (Ecstasy) as a treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder, gained government approval for the first broad study of LSD’s clinical effects since Fadiman’s work. And with MAPS as a sponsor, psychiatrist Peter Gasser from Switzerland (somehow fitting, given that LSD’s discoverer, Albert Hofmann, was Swiss) became the first investigator in the world to undertake officially sanctioned research on LSD therapy in more than 35 years.

That is a long research gap by any standards; something we would expect to see coming out of a former Eastern bloc nation, where certain lines of scientific research had been proscribed for arbitrary ideological reasons. David Jay Brown of santacruz.patch.com has been following this story, and reports that the study, which has just reached completion, explored “how LSD-assisted psychotherapy effects the anxiety associated with suffering from an advanced, life-threatening illness.” The final experimental therapy sessions took place last week, and Gasser is now finalizing the study for the FDA and preparing a manuscript for publication. In an interview with Dr. Gasser by Brown, published in the MAPS Bulletin (PDF here), Gasser said: “With this pilot study that we’re now doing, my vision is to show that LSD-assisted psychotherapy is safe and effective–so that we can plan further studies based on that result. This would not be something new for insiders, but it would be new to much of the world–because it would be based on research that meets the medical requirements of contemporary drug research. I absolutely believe that LSD has broad potential for healing and relief.”

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]