Thursday, March 6, 2014

"First Controlled Study of LSD-Assisted Psychotherapy in More Than 40 Years"

Researchers from Switzerland and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies have conducted what they are calling the first study of its kind in over 40 years: a randomized, double-blind, active placebo-controlled study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy. The participants, 12 patients with anxiety related to life-threatening illnesses like metastatic cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Parkinson's disease, etc., participated in drug-free therapy sessions as well as 2 LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions over the course of the study. Follow-up interviews were conducted at 2- and 12-months post-treatment and indicated lasting, statistically-significant improvements in anxiety. The study is posted in its entirety for free online via The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

The main outcome measures were scores on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Exclusion criteria included current drug or alcohol disorders, primary psychotic, dissociative or bipolar 1 disorders, neurocognitive impairment or pregnancy/nursing. Participants in the experimental arm participated in 2 full-day LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions, 2 to 3 weeks apart, that were "embedded within an ongoing process of [six]drug-free psychotherapy sessions for preparatory and integrative purposes." Subjects received doses of 200 micrograms of pure LSD and the day-long sessions lasted 8 hours, or until the effects of the medication wore off. Participants in the active placebo group received the exact same set of psychotherapy sessions, but were given 20-microgram doses of LSD. After the 2-month follow-up interview, these participants were informed of their place in the control group and were offered the full, open-label intervention.

The results indicate statistically significant STAI scores for both state and trait anxiety at 2 and 12 months for the experimental groups. The active placebo did not produce statistically-significant improvements. The researchers calculate the effect size at 1.1 for trait anxiety, and 1.2 for state anxiety. They also, as you would imagine, call for more research with larger controlled studies. Importantly, neither the experimental drug nor the placebo produced any serious adverse effects, leading the authors to seem confident in the safety of this type of therapy.

Considering the research on LSD ground to a halt by the 1970s, do readers think it's time to revisit this(or other psychedelics, for that matter) as a therapeutic tool? If you have experience with this, it would be fascinating to hear your take, too.

Interested to hear readers opinions on the matter...


1 comment:

  1. While a bit surprised by the selection of the intensely powerful LSD over milder psychedelics, I completely applaud this research. During the 1950s-60s LSD studies, the failure to consider the importance of set and setting for LSD subjects, the lack of modern-day study design or careful patient selection, and governmental misuse through the CIA MK-ULTRA project and others gave LSD, as a therapeutic, no lack of baggage. It also acquired a reputation for unpredictability. This study shows that with intelligent design (that's study design!!), the therapeutic potential of LSD can be harnessed and the liabilities minimized. Two populations thought to especially benefit from LSD therapy in the 1950s were career criminals and chronic alcoholics. One of the 2 co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, also saw with LSD the potential of reaching and changing through spiritual epiphany chronic severe alcoholics who did not respond to AA. Wilson also experimented with LSD several times. Few seem to appreciate the broad-minded and visionary traits reflected by this.
    Mark Edmund Rose, MA
    Licensed Psychologist


Comments are welcome.