A new study by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology claims that analysis of independent clinical trials between 1966 and 1970 shows that a single dose of the hallucinogenic drug LSD can help alcoholics give up drinking.
In the late 1960s, a number of clinics used LSD to treat alcoholism with success but no follow-up research was done to assess the results of these treatments or collate the results of the independent trials to assess the effectiveness of LSD for treating alcoholism.
According to the study authors, assessments of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in the treatment of alcoholism "have not been based on meta-analysis." The authors, therefore, performed an analysis of randomized controlled trials to evaluate the clinical efficacy of LSD in the treatment of alcoholism. Two reviewers identified six eligible trials including 536 participants and found evidence for beneficial effect of LSD on alcohol abuse.
In some of the original clinical trials in the late 1960s, according to BBC, some patients taking part in alcohol treatment programs were given a single dose of LSD between 210 and 800 micrograms.
The new study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found there was a "significant beneficial effect" of a single dose of LSD on alcohol abuse that lasted several months. Daily Mail reports that study authors Teri Krebs and Pal-Orjan Johansen of the Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA, did an analysis of six trials carried out between 1966 and 1970. The trials included 536 participants mostly male in-patients who were enrolled in alcohol treatment programs. Individuals with a history of psychotic illness were excluded. They found that LSD made the patients feel more resolute about giving up drinking. Compared to control groups administered placebos, LSD was found to have a beneficial effect on alcohol abuse.
LSD is one of the most powerful hallucinogens known and its hallucinogenic effect is believed to work by blocking serotonin in the brain. Serotonin has been implicated in a wide variety of functions, including cognitive functions such as perception and behaviour; physiological functions such as hunger, and psychological functions such as mood.
For the patients in the alcohol treatment programs that took LSD, 59 percent showed reduced levels of alcohol abuse compared to 38 percent from other groups, and the effect was sustained for six months following the single LSD dose. Those that took LSD subsequently reported higher levels of alcohol abstinence.
Daily Mail reports the study noted in one of the trials: "It was rather common for patients to claim significant insights into their problems, to feel that they had been given a new lease on life, and to make a strong resolution to discontinue their drinking."
The study noted in another trial: "It was not unusual for patients following their LSD experience to become much more self-accepting, to show greater openness and accessibility, and to adopt a more positive, optimistic view of their capacities to face future problems."
Study authors Krebs and Johansen concluded: "A single dose of LSD has a significant beneficial effect on alcohol misuse."
The study also suggested that the temporary effect (six months) might be augmented by repeated doses. The study authors said: "Given the evidence for a beneficial effect of LSD on alcoholism, it is puzzling why this treatment approach has been largely overlooked."
BBC reports that Professor David Nutts, former UK government's drug adviser, who had called for relaxing prohibitions on illegal drugs to facilitate more research, said: "Curing alcohol dependency requires huge changes in the way you see yourself. That's what LSD does. Overall there is a big effect, show me another treatment with results as good; we've missed a trick here. This is probably as good as anything we've got."
WARNING: The public is warned that in spite of the result from this study, there are grave dangers in self-medication with LSD. A person using LSD may put himself in danger "such as thinking he can fly and jumping from the top of a high building." In sufficiently high doses it can cause intense anxiety and panic attacks. LSD may also trigger psychotic illness in vulnerable individuals.