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First scientific study of LSD in 40 years shows positive therapeutic results

Scientists described the study as "pilot" intended to dispel the stigma surrounding the drug

James Vincent
Thursday 06 March 2014 11:03 GMT
Sheets of LSD tabs
Sheets of LSD tabs

The first study of the therapeutic effects of LSD in more than 40 years has shown positive results, with test subjects showing “statistically significant reductions in anxiety”.

The double-blind pilot study measured the effects of LSD-assisted psychotherapy on twelve individuals suffering from life-threatening diseases, mostly terminal cancer. Several died within a year of the tests.

“The study was a success in the sense that we did not have any noteworthy adverse effects,” said Swiss psychiatrist Peter Gasser, who led the research. “All participants reported a personal benefit from the treatment, and the effects were stable over time.”

Eight subjects received a full 200-microgram dose of LSD while four others received one-tenth as much. Participants then took part in two LSD-assisted therapy sessions two to three weeks apart. Subjects who took the full dose experienced reductions in anxiety averaging 20 per cent while those given the low dose reported becoming more anxious.

When subjects taking the low dose were switched to the full dose they too showed reduced anxiety, with the positive effects lasting for up to a year. The effects of the drug itself lasted for up to 10 hours with participants talking to Dr Gasser throughout the experience.

“These results indicate that when administered safely in a methodologically rigorous medically supervised psychotherapeutic setting, LSD can reduce anxiety,” the study concludes, “suggesting that larger controlled studies are warranted.”

Speaking to The New York Times, Dr Doblin, one of the study’s co-authors, described the work as “a proof concept” that he hoped would “break these substances out of the mold of the counterculture and bring them back to the lab as part of a psychedelic renaissance.”

LSD was first synthesized in 1938 by the chemist Albert Hoffman. The drug was regularly used in the 1950s and 1960s to enhance psychotherapy but was shunned by the establishment after it became popular as a recreational narcotic.

“This study is historic and marks a rebirth of investigation into LSD-assisted psychotherapy,” says Doblin. “The positive results and evidence of safety clearly show why additional, larger studies are needed.” However, Gasser noted that the trial was far too small to be conclusive.

The results of the study were published today in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

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