LSD Used In Drug Therapy For First Time In Four Decades

By McCarton Ackerman 03/06/14

Swiss researchers conducted therapy sessions with terminally ill cancer patients and found that the drug had decreased their anxiety about death.

A psychedelic renaissance? Photo via

Acid was used as a drug therapy for the first time since an informal ban on LSD research was introduced 40 years ago. Swiss scientists broke the ban by announcing the results of a study in which cancer patients, most of whom are terminally ill, were given the drug to help curb their anxiety about death. The findings have since been published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

The goal of the study was to determine the safety and efficacy of LSD when used in conjunction with talk therapy. The patients were medically supervised during the acid trips that lasted for about 10 hours each. They each underwent roughly 30 similar trips over the course of two months. The findings showed that patients who received a full dose of LSD, or 200 micrograms, experienced a 20 percent improvement in their anxiety levels a year after the sessions ended. Surprisingly, those who received a lower dose actually reported having their anxiety increase. That group was allowed to try the full dosage once their trial had ended.

One of the patients told the New York Times that tripping on LSD was a "mystical experience," where "the major part was pure distress at all the memories I had successfully forgotten for decades." The moments of distress were considered to have a therapeutic benefit because it allowed patients to directly address the emotions evoked. Although no conclusive statements could be made about the effectiveness of LSD treatment because the number of participants was too small, the drug didn’t cause serious side effects in any of the participants.

It’s also likely that LSD-based treatments could be revisited in the future. Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, said that “we want to break these substances out of the mold of the counterculture and bring them back to the lab as part of a psychedelic renaissance."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.