LSD and Psychotherapy for Anxiety Related to Life-Threatening Illness

I found this interesting article on the first study in 40 years to use LSD to facilitate psychotherapy in patients suffering from anxiety related to being faced with a life-threatening illness [1]. There were only 12 subjects, so it’s hard to generalize much, but none of them had a bad trip.

According to the introduction, LSD-assisted psychotherapy was used in the 1950s mainly for treating alcohol use disorders, neurosis, and psychosomatic disorders. They assert that LSD is a “non-specific amplifier of the unconscious,” and that this effect can enhance psychotherapeutic processing.

I learned that the drug can activate the right hemisphere, change thalamic functioning, and increase activity in paralimbic structures and the frontal cortex.

Quoting the authors,

LSD in oral doses of more than 100 Kg produces vivid psychosensory changes, including increased sensory perception, illusionary changes of perceived objects, synesthesia, and enhanced mental imagery. Affectivity is intensified. Thoughts are accelerated, with their scope usually broadened including new associations and modified interpretation and meanings of relationships and objects. Hypermnesia and enhanced memory processes typically occur. Ego identification is usually weakened.

The authors describe the “psycholytic” method of using lower doses of LSD to enhance the standard psychotherapeutic process as compared to the “psychedelic” method which used higher doses to incude a “mystical experience and moments of intense catharsis,” to reduce anxiety and depression.

In 1963, a study found the combination of LSD and counseling could reduce anxiety, depression, and pain in patients suffering from advanced-stage cancer. Subsequent studies seemed to demonstrate safety and efficacy in this population. Research ended when LSD was made illegal in the United States in 1966 owing to increasing nonmedical use.

In this small study, the patients who received the experimental dose of LSD improved from both state and trait anxiety as measured by a self-report instrument, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).

All but one of the subjects were LSD-naive. Those who got experimental dose LSD had sustained improvement.

I just thought this was an interesting study which seems to be part of an ongoing movement to legitimize the potentially salutary role of drugs which have been cast as drugs of abuse for many years, other examples being cannabis and ketamine.

I wonder what others out there think about using LSD to relax?Relax



1. Gasser, P., et al. (2014). “Safety and Efficacy of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-Assisted Psychotherapy for Anxiety Associated With Life-threatening Diseases.” J Nerv Ment Dis.
A double-blind, randomized, active placebo-controlled pilot study was conducted to examine safety and efficacy of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)-assisted psychotherapy in 12 patients with anxiety associated with life-threatening diseases. Treatment included drug-free psychotherapy sessions supplemented by two LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions 2 to 3 weeks apart. The participants received either 200 mug of LSD (n = 8) or 20 mug of LSD with an open-label crossover to 200 mug of LSD after the initial blinded treatment was unmasked (n = 4). At the 2-month follow-up, positive trends were found via the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) in reductions in trait anxiety (p = 0.033) with an effect size of 1.1, and state anxiety was significantly reduced (p = 0.021) with an effect size of 1.2, with no acute or chronic adverse effects persisting beyond 1 day after treatment or treatment-related serious adverse events. STAI reductions were sustained for 12 months. These results indicate that when administered safely in a methodologically rigorous medically supervised psychotherapeutic setting, LSD can reduce anxiety, suggesting that larger controlled studies are warranted.This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License, where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially.


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