LSD helps alcoholics put down the botttle

A single dose of the hallucinogenic drug LSD is an effective treatment for alcoholism - according to research led by a British doctor more than 40 years ago.

Studies on thousands of alcoholics treated with the drug in the early 1960s - before it became popular as a psychedelic street drug - showed it helped trigger a change in mental attitude leading drinkers to quit. But, in spite of its promise, the therapeutic potential of the drug has been ignored since it was banned worldwide in the late 1960s as a threat to public safety.

Now a historian who unearthed the research, led by British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond and carried out in Canada, has interviewed the participants four decades on and says the results are dramatic.

Erika Dyck, professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Alberta, said: "The LSD somehow gave these people experiences that psychologically took them outside of themselves and allowed them to see their own unhealthy behaviour more objectively, and then determine to change it.

"Even interviewing the patients 40 years after their experience, I was surprised at how loyal they were to the doctors who treated them, and how powerful they said the experience was for them - some even felt the experience saved their lives."

The research was carried out in Saskatchewan where Humphry Osmond and his fellow British psychiatrist John Smythies had gone after they became disillusioned with the state of psychiatric research in Britain.

They reasoned that a single large dose of LSD might have the same effect as experiencing delirium tremens which they had noted often marked the turning point in a drinker's career.

In one study, two-thirds of the alcoholics stopped drinking for at least 18 months after receiving one dose of LSD, compared to 25 per cent who stopped after group therapy and 12 per cent after individual therapy.

But the 1962 study was received with scepticism by a research group in Toronto. They repeated the study on blindfolded patients in isolation, and concluded that, under these conditions, LSD was not an effective treatment for alcoholism.

Writing in the journal Social History of Medicine, Dr Dyck said: "The LSD experience appeared to allow the patients to go through a spiritual journey that ultimately empowered them to heal themselves, and that's really quite an amazing therapy regimen. We accept all sorts of drugs, but I think LSD's 'street' popularity ultimately led to its demise. That's too bad because I think the researchers in Saskatchewan, among others, showed the drug is unique and has some intriguing properties that need to be explored further."

The ban on the use of LSD in medical experiments appears to be lifting, as researchers in the UShave recently been granted permission to conduct experiments. In Britain, some psychiatrists have been calling for research projects involving LSD and similar drugs to be re-started. The Royal College of Psychiatrists discussed the use of the drugs in treatment at its annual meeting in March, for the first time in over 30 years.

The story of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

* LSD was first produced by Swiss chemist Dr Albert Hofmann in 1938 and studied for possible medicinal applications. Its psychedelic properties were not recognised until 1943, and it remained freely available to scientists until 1966.

* In 1953 and 1954, scientists working for MI6 administered LSD to servicemen without their consent in a bid to uncover a "truth drug". Earlier this year, the servicemen were paid thousands of pounds in compensation.

* Between 1950 and 1965, research on LSD and other hallucinogens generated more than 1,000 scientific papers, six international conferences, and was prescribed as treatment to more than 40,000 patients.

* In the late 1950s, film star Cary Grant was administered LSD on a therapeutic basis in an effort to overcome the problems behind his failed marriages. In 1961, Harvard psychology professor Dr Timothy Leary used a Harvard grant to give 3,500 doses to more than 400 volunteers. Of the test subjects, 90 per cent said they would like to repeat the experience while 62 per cent said it had changed their life for the better.

* In 1966, LSD was made illegal in Britain and subsequently adopted by the counter-culture movement of the late 1960s, who found spiritual and mystical qualities in the prolonged hallucinations, which typically lasted 8 to 15 hours.

* The spread of LSD among the general population followed its association with counter-culture icons such as Ken Kesey and his "acid tests", and Paul McCartney's highly publicised admission of use in a 1967 television interview.

* In composing "Tomorrow Never Knows", the song that signalled The Beatles' dalliance with the drug, John Lennon borrowed heavily from a 1964 book, The Psychedelic Experience, by Timothy Leary.

* Roger "Syd" Barrett of Pink Floyd was also a prolific user in the 1960s. An infamous clip of him on acid has received nearly 50,000 viewings on YouTube.

* In the late 1960s, a recreational dose typically amounted to one tenth of a grain of sand, or between 100 and 200 micrograms or "mics". Jim Morrison allegedly took 10,000 mics before performing with The Doors in 1966.

* But, according to the NHS, there is no evidence to suggest LSD does any long-term damage to the body or mind.

* Possession of LSD, a Class A drug, can get you up to seven years in jail. Supplying someone can get you life in prison and an unlimited fine.

Jeremy Clarke

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Selby Jennings: Leveraged Finance - Senior Associate - International Bank - Frankfurt

    Competitive + bonus: Selby Jennings: My client, a growing European CIB are loo...

    Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

    £25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

    Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

    Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

    Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

    Day In a Page

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible