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Study launched into the potential of LSD as a sleep aid

A randomized placebo-controlled study will evaluate the effects of daytime and evening administration of repeated low doses of LSD.

Sleep is associated with a state of muscle relaxation and reduced perception of environmental stimuli. — Image: Rachel CALAMUSA (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Sleep is associated with a state of muscle relaxation and reduced perception of environmental stimuli. — Image: Rachel CALAMUSA (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A company that investigates psychedelics called MindMed,is to launch a new study aimed at discovering if low-dose lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) can help patients obtain sufficient and good quality sleep.  Such dosing is in contrast to when the drug is administered in sufficiently high dosages, where LSD manifests primarily as visual and auditory hallucinations.

This connects with renewed interest in ‘micro-dosing’ psychedelics. This is the practice of consuming very low, sub-hallucinogenic doses of a psychedelic substance in pursuit of a health benefit or some form of performance enhancement.

MindMed is a biotech based in New York and the firm has several psychedelic-inspired compounds running in clinical studies. These trials include a low-dose LSD treatment for ADHD and an ibogaine-based treatment that could address opioid addiction. MindMed aims to develop psychedelic-based therapies like traditional pharmaceutical products.

As a further elaboration upon LSD related research, MindMed has declared it is recruiting patients for a randomized, placebo-controlled trial that will study the impact of daytime and night-time dosing of LSD on various sleep measures.

The research will integrate digital medicine measurement techniques with more traditional self-reporting and cognitive tasks in order to assess the effectivity of micro-dosing on sleep patterns.

For the research, the company will deploy digital measurement devices and software to determine the effects of LSD on “neuroplasticity markers such as BDNF plasma levels.”

In addition, the study will also record the impact of low-dose LSD on mood, cognitive performance, immune system response and emotions.

Speaking with Pharma Manufacturing, Dr. Kim Kuypers of Maastricht University (who is involved with the study) explains the rationale: “We are investigating whether the repeated intake of lower doses could lead to realignment of patterns of thinking that would enable individuals to access levels of self-awareness that can provide an enriched experience of life.”

Studies into LSD and sleep date back to the 1960s (“Alterations in the nocturnal sleep cycle resulting from LSD”), however the research presents one of the first to explore whether low-dose LSD has the potential as a sleep aid. Beyond LSD, MindMed is expanding its pipeline to include the development of 3,4-methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA), which is the active ingredient in the street drug, ecstasy, as a potential treatment for social anxiety and autism.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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