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
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
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

    Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

    £16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

    KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

    £100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

    £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

    Day In a Page

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world