Giving LSD a Second Chance

Research has shown that regulated small doses of LSD have the potential to be beneficial. Even though these studies show LSD as something promising, politics surrounding the use of it in the 1960s resulted in it being classified as a Schedule 1 drug (see left). This makes it difficult for scientists and researchers to obtain the drug for scientific use. LSD needs to be rescheduled so that researchers are able to conduct more studies for its potential future use in the medical field.

Let’s address the basics of what LSD does to someone. Users of LSD experience what is known as a “trip.” Feelings of bliss and leaving one’s physical body, sound and sight hallucinations, and other “mystical experiences” accompany the trip. Additionally, LSD impairs the recognition of fearful or sad faces and increases emotional empathy. It should be noted that the LSD I am discussing in this post LSD as a pure substance; the LSD that is found in street operations and made illegally typically is not pure and therefore does not wield the same effects as the LSD being used by researchers.

On April 16, 1943, a Swiss chemist known as Albert Hoffmann became the first person to synthesize LSD. Research on the drug was attempted by various organizations, but the experiments were poorly conducted. There were no clear control groups or quantifiable ways to record what was going on during a trip. Because of this, self-experimentation became the new normal for LSD. Timothy Leory, an ex-Harvard professor who was fired over his use of hallucinogens in research, promoted their use in the 1960’s counterculture. At first the use of these drugs was not particularly condemned by anyone; there was more of an indifferent stance. The public’s view on hallucinogens and the counterculture quickly changed when Richard Nixon had begun cracking down on drug regulations. Through media manipulation and legislation, Nixon overpowered the drug movement within the counterculture. Additionally, Nixon signed off on the creation of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which regulated and sorted drugs into categories based on their medical use and how likely it is for them to be abused. Some drugs, like LSD, were placed into more restricted categories due to the government wanting to control the public’s use in order to gain more power over them.

One of the major recent studies on LSD was done in Switzerland a few years ago. The subjects in it were suffering from severe anxiety associated with having a life-threatening disease. The goal of the study was to use LSD so that patients would be less anxious and fearful of their unknown futures. They experienced at least eight sessions of psychotherapy, two with 200 micrograms of LSD. After the sessions, there was a two month and twelve months follow up to see how the participants were doing. The results of both follow ups can be seen below.

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Not only had the participants anxiety decreased after initially going through with the treatment, but their anxiety levels stayed lowered after an entire year. These results show promise in the potential of LSD use in people with severe anxiety.

Rescheduling LSD to a Schedule II drug will allow for the recognition of it having accepted medical use. Researchers will find it easier to obtain in order to study, but it will still be just as regulated and kept track of in the government as it was before. Breaking down the stereotypes about LSD being a dangerous drug is the first step to getting it rescheduled. People need to understand the difference between political lies from the past and the promising results that it shows now.

For more information about how LSD in the government: https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/lsd

For more information about the history of LSD: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt14jxvrz

For the full journal on the study in people with severe anxiety: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881114555249?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&


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