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LSD Finds New Life in Mental Health Circles

LSD is back with a flurry of new applications to treat a broad array of conditions.
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By now, everybody in the psychedelics industry knows the story of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD): discovered by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman in 1938; consumed by counter culture of the late 1960s as a popular recreational drug; used in government acid experiments – which also involved dozens of universities, pharmaceutical companies, and medical facilities – throughout the 1950s and 1960s; then criminalized in 1970 as part of the controversial Controlled Substances Act, resulting in no clinical trial work until the mid-1990s.

But it had its early, and sometimes surprising, proponents. Robert Kennedy in 1966 supported it after his wife benefited from LSD treatments. He criticized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s crackdown on the use of LSD, saying, “We have lost sight of the fact that [LSD] can be very, very helpful in our society if used properly.”

Fast forward to 2022.

LSD is back with a flurry of new applications to treat a broad array of conditions, such as depression, ADHD, anxiety associated with terminal illness, and cluster headache attacks. A clinical study on LSD use for cluster headaches at the University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, is in Phase 2 right now, with results expected by December 2023.

Additionally, MindBio Therapeutics research collaborators at the University of Auckland received $824,000 from the Health Research Council of New Zealand to conduct a trial of LSD microdosing in patients with major depressive disorder. The grant funding followed the recent successful completion of a Phase 1 Clinical Trial in 80 healthy participants.

In fact, there are 17 clinical studies with LSD either in progress or planned right now.

Clearly, scientists are coming around to check out LSD again, but they are carefully assessing its efficacy and safety, while still trying to figure out exactly how it works.

There are still problems with clinical trials of LSD in terms of the placebo effect and the set and setting, because the strong hallucinogenic effect from LSD are a clear indication that a participant has received the actual substance and not a placebo.

Now there are efforts underway to make a nonpsychedelic version of some psychedelics, including LSD, with others working on how to stop the 12–18-hour LSD “trip” by Mind Medicine. Mind Medicine also is looking at how LSD might be time-released within another drug.

Another approach of making LSD better for broader use is with the use of a nonpsychedelic version of LSD, 2-bromo-LSD.

Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelics Science, said he agreed that LSD is good for cluster headaches. “But a lot of times, it’s just that people don’t want to trip. They just want to get rid of the headache,” he told Psychedealia. “So bromo-LSD works even better for cluster headaches than LSD or psilocybin. We have no idea why it works, but because it’s not psychedelic, you can give it in milligrams, whereas with LSD you give it in micrograms. You can actually flood the brain with whatever it is that causes its effect (with bromo).”

But LSD is still in a sort of functional party mode as well. Beyond clinical trials and the work of psychedelic companies, there is a movement underway to microdose LSD in business settings to improve creativity, boost physical energy level and emotional balance, increase performance on problem-solving tasks, and treat anxiety, depression, and addiction.

People who microdose LSD stick to microdosing schedules (usually 6-25 micrograms of LSD), often dosing about every three days, according to a study. They report minimal acute effects from these substances yet claim a range of long-term general health and well-being benefits.

More work, more breakthroughs, for LSD are being discussed.

“Despite the difficulty of designing double-blind clinical trials with this substance, new studies performed under modern standards are necessary in order to strengthen our knowledge, help erase the stigma that still prevails around these substances and open new doors in the future,” a 2020 study on the therapeutic use of LSD concluded.

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