Researchers Still See Therapeutic Value in LSD

By Paul Gaita 10/17/14

Two European studies have underscored the renewed interest in the medical use of LSD.

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Despite being classified as a Schedule I drug by the U.S. government, LSD has attracted renewed interest among researchers interested in exploring its therapeutic value.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, was initially considered as treatment for a variety of conditions, ranging from repressed emotions to alcoholism and even as an analgesic for pain. An array of side effects, including its potential to produce impaired judgment, panic attacks, and exacerbate mental conditions like schizophrenia—as well as its popularity with the counterculture of the 1960s—led to a ban by the Food and Drug Administration in 1968 and classification as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. However, studies on possible therapeutic uses for LSD have continued in Europe for decades.

Two recent European studies underscore the continuing interest in medical applications for LSD. In September of this year, researchers at Imperial College London published their findings after conducting a study on the drug’s efficacy in hypnotherapy. Ten volunteers were given two injections—one containing a moderate dose of LSD, and the other a placebo—two weeks apart, and asked after each injection to relax and “think along” with descriptions of pleasant actions or locations. The volunteers who received the LSD injection reported that the experiences were 20% more “vivid” than those who received the placebo.

The second experiment, also published this year, was a double-blind study conducted by researchers in Switzerland, who were also given either a low dose of LSD or a placebo to determine the drug’s effect on anxiety related to the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. Those who were injected with the drug showed a noticeable reduction in anxious feelings after just two sessions.

In both cases, the respective researchers saw no ill side effects in volunteers who received LSD. Further clinical testing will undoubtedly be required before any significant change to the drug’s legal or social standing can be effected.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.