LSD-assisted therapy provided a rapid and long-lasting reduction in symptoms associated with anxiety, according to recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal
Prior research has shown that lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) may have the ability to treat several serious mental health conditions when used in conjunction with sessions led by a trained psychotherapist. For example, the authors of the new study note that a small pilot study found that LSD helped reduce anxiety in patients with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer.
To further examine LSD’s ability to treat mental illness, a team of researchers affiliated with the University of Basel in Switzerland designed a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to investigate the previous findings in patients with
“Primarily, we wanted to confirm a pilot study on the effects of LSD in patients with anxiety and life-threatening illness,” said study author Matthias Liechti, a professor of clinical pharmacology at University Hospital Basel,
LSD Study Included Nearly Four Dozen Subjects with Anxiety
The study included 20 participants who had a life-threatening somatic illness (such as a diagnosis of cancer) and 22 participants with an anxiety disorder that was not associated with a life-threatenting illness. Psychiatric symptoms were measured with questionnaires commonly used in research and clinical care.
The study included a screening visit and two 24-week treatment periods for each participant. Each treatment period consisted of two treatment sessions and five study visits. Treatment sessions were separated by six weeks, with study visits conducted at the outset of the study, between the sessions, and at two, eight and 16 weeks after the second treatment session. The week 16 visit in the second period also served as the end-of-study visit. Patients were generally called by phone by the therapists a few days after treatment sessions for a brief follow-up discussion.
The researched followed a crossover design in which the study subjects were randomly assigned to receive either LSD or placebo in the first treatment period and the remaining option in the second treatment period. Each participant was given 200 micrograms of LSD, which is considered a substantially high dose of the drug.
The researchers found that LSD produced strong reductions in anxiety, depression and general psychiatric symptomatology compared with the placebo. The effects were still observeable 16 weeks after the last LSD treatment.
“The response was surprisingly sustained,” study author Matthias Liechti, a professor of clinical pharmacology at University Hospital Basel,
“LSD may have therapeutic benefits in anxiety disorders and also reduce depression,” Liechti added. “The therapeutic effects set in fast and were sustained up to 16 weeks following the treatment with two single doses of LSD.”
The researchers also found evidence that some of the reported subjective effects of LSD were associated with reductions in anxiety. For example, participants who reported greater feelings of oceanic boundlessness, a feeling of oneness with the world, were more likely to experience sustained reductions in anxiety symptoms. A similar effect was noticied among subjects who scored high on a measure of mystical experiences. The research also found that LSD was generally safe.
“LSD was overall well tolerated,” Liechti noted. However, a total of nine adverse effects occurred during the study. Six of the adverse events occurred during the LSD session, although only one was determined to be related to the treatment.
While the initial findings of the research are encouraging, Liechti said that “more studies are needed to confirm these effects.” The researchers also noted limitations of the study, including the difficulty conducting a double-blind study with psychedelics because subjects are often aware which drug is active and which is the placebo.
“The blinding of the acute effects of psychedelics is not possible against a placebo,” Liechti said. “Future studies may therefore include different doses and show a dose-response effect instead.”