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Elizabeth Hartney, PhD

LSD Experiments on Alcoholism Reviewed

By April 2, 2012

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Several studies conducted in the 1960s showed improvement in alcoholics who were given the hallucinogen, LSD, as a type of therapy. Although the research was abandoned when the drug was made illegal, as U.S.News & World Report Healthday reports, there has been recent interest in the therapeutic potential of hallucinogenic drugs.

Why would a potentially dangerous drug, such as LSD, help alcoholics? The answer to this question is not answered by the research, but one of the effects of LSD is to cause the user to see themself, and the world around them, from a different perspective. Previously harmless things can seem scary, obviously dangerous situations, such as heights, can seem harmless, and social conventions, including things we take for granted, such as wearing clothing, can seem ridiculous and constraining. So it doesn't take too much of a stretch of the imagination to see that an alcoholic, previously clinging to their addiction as an unmovable force, could suddenly see drinking as a way of coping as pointless and ridiculous.

But LSD is not a drug to be taken lightly, despite the myths about acid still circulating. Every year, accidents and misadventures occur as a result of people doing irrational things, having bad trips, and hurting themselves while they are high on acid. If you need further evidence, here are five true stories of bad trips.

And while the recent review of LSD research with alcoholics potentially provides some hope for the hard-to-treat, I would strongly caution anyone against self-medicating with LSD. Illegal acid is impossible to accurately dose, may contain other drugs such as PCP, and can cause extremely negative reactions at the time, as well as flashbacks, sometimes for months or even years afterwards.

April 2, 2012 at 5:33 am
(1) Jacob H. says:

As described in the article of LSD for alcoholism, all of the patients in the alcoholism trials had gotten over the LSD effects before leaving the hospital (here is a link to the easy to read article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22406913).

Although all drugs have potential harm, many claims have been false propaganda. Harms from alcohol and tobacco have been understated, while harms from illicit drugs have often been overstated. We should be scepticall accepting case reports and urban legends of temporary anxiety as evidence of long term harm and danger from drugs.

In most case reports its not documented that LSD was used at all. The author mention that illicit LSD may contain delirium producing drugs such as PCP – and in some of the case reports of delirious effects this seems likely.

However, taken into account that 100 of million of doses of LSD are used every year, case reports of adverse effects from LSD are extremely rare. In a treatment program for alcoholism “unpure” acid is of course not a concern anyway.

April 2, 2012 at 5:56 am
(2) TRK says:

Yes, there are many myths about LSD. LSD are not addicive or toxic. LSD has not been demonstrated to cause lasting psychological harm and “Serious side effects often attributed to LSD such as irrational acts leading to suicide or accidental deaths, are extremely rare.”

Addiction professionals regard alcohol as more dangerous than psychedelic drugs such as LSD. The safety-benefit ratio for LSD in treatment of chronic alcoholics is clearly positive. There is currently an active study using LSD-like magic mushrooms in the treatment of smoking cessation at Johns Hopkins University.

April 2, 2012 at 6:14 am
(3) Jacob H. says:

About 300,000 Native Americans have used the psychedelic cacti peyote for generations (often every other week for decades), and leading psychiatry journals have endorsed the positive effects of peyote on alcoholism and failed to find evidence of harm in peyote users.

Here is a recent interview on BBC World TV of on of the researchers in the LSD for alcoholism study: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtooVcEoLlw

April 2, 2012 at 10:23 am
(4) addictions says:

While LSD enthusiasts are keen to minimize the harmful effects of the drug, the fact is, people do sometimes experience long term mental health problems as a result of taking LSD. Furthermore, many do regrettable things while on LSD. Follow the links in the blog for more information on this. Remember, just because one person has no apparent ill effects of taking LSD doesn’t mean someone else won’t be very badly affected. Maybe the commenter has never seen someone who became psychotic or severely paranoid after using hallucinogens. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist — these people are often too freaked out to leave their homes, let alone socialize. So don’t be fooled by the harmless drug argument. BTW, plenty of people develop alcohol-induced psychosis as well, but I’ve never seen this in response to a single drink!

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