For the first time in 40 years, scientists have carried out controlled medical experiments on the hallucinogenic drug LSD, and the results have been surprisingly positive.
The drug was used as part of a psychotherapy course to treat severe depression in terminally ill cancer patients.
In a pilot test, twelve men and women at a private practice in Solothurn, Switzerland, were given high doses of LSD. The results showed a 20 percent reduction in symptoms associated with extreme anxiety relating to their medical condition.
The test also revealed that lysergic acid diethylamide had no severe side effects.
However, it was found that when issued with low doses of LSD, the participants’ depressive symptoms became worse.
The study, published in the Journal of Nervous and Medical Disease, concluded:
These results indicate that when administered safely in a methodologically rigorous medically supervised psychotherapeutic setting, LSD can reduce anxiety, suggesting that larger controlled studies are warranted.
Psychiatrist Peter Gasser, who is based at the practice in Switzerland, said that eleven of the twelve participants involved in the trial had never taken LSD before, but all of them would take LSD again and would recommend the drug to other patients who were in a similar medical situation:
All of them said after 12 months of taking the drug that it was worth taking part in the trial and they would come again if asked. They also said they would recommend it for other people in the same position as themselves.
We showed that all the treatments were safe and any adverse effects were only mild and temporary – they did not last for more than a day or so. It can be a safe treatment with good efficacy, and it justifies further research with a larger number of people.
Gasser explained that eight of the trial were given a full dose of LSD, while four were given an “active placebo.” The placebo group showed an increase in their anxiety symptoms associated with depressive illness. These four were subsequently given a high dose of LSD.
One participant described his experience as “mystical,” and Dr. Gasser said all of the patients felt better in terms of their anxiety about being terminally ill. This improvement lasted for “at least twelve months after the therapy.”
They said in general they felt relief. They felt an intense process of what to do with the rest of their limited time and who they want to spend it with.
The last time medical trials used LSD on terminally ill patients was the early 1960s. LSD was made illegal in the United States in 1966.
Below, archive footage of one of the many LSD trials carried out in the 1960s.