Landmark Clinical LSD Study Nears Completion

Originally appearing at The first clinical LSD study on the planet in more than 35 years is almost complete. The Santa Cruz Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is sponsoring this research, which began in 2008, when Swiss psychiatrist Peter Gasser, M.D., became the first medical researcher in the world to obtain government approval to do therapeutic research with LSD since 1972. Before 1972, nearly 700 studies with LSD and other psychedelic drugs were conducted. This research suggested that LSD has remarkable medical potential. LSD-assisted psychotherapy was shown to reduce the anxiety of terminal cancer patients, the drinking of alcoholics and the symptoms of many difficult-to-treat psychiatric illnesses. For example, early LSD studies with advanced-stage cancer patients showed that LSD-assisted psychotherapy could alleviate symptoms of anxiety, tension, depression, sleep disturbances, psychological withdrawal and even severe physical pain. Other early investigators found that LSD may have some valuable potential as a means to facilitate creativity, problem-solving abilities and spiritual awareness. Between 1972 and 1990 there were no government-approved human studies with any psychedelic drugs anywhere in the world. Their disappearance was no mystery. The worldwide ban on psychedelic drug research was the result of a political backlash that followed the promotion of these drugs by the counterculture of the 1960s. This reaction not only made these substances illegal for personal use, it also made it extremely difficult for medical researchers to obtain government approval to study them. The situation began to change in 1990 when, according to MAPS president Rick Doblin, “open-minded regulators at the FDA decided to put science before politics when it came to psychedelic and medical marijuana research.” There are now more than a half-dozen clinical studies occurring worldwide that are examining the medical potential of psychedelic drugs. Gasser’s almost-completed, MAPS-sponsored LSD study is being conducted in Switzerland, where LSD was discovered in 1943 by Albert Hofmann. The study examines how LSD-assisted psychotherapy affects the anxiety associated with suffering from an advanced, life-threatening illness. There are 12 subjects in the study with advanced-stage cancer and other serious illnesses. According to Gasser, so far the results look promising. Early researchers found that LSD-assisted psychotherapy has the incredible ability to help many people overcome their fear of death, and this is probably a major contributing factor in why the drug can be so profoundly helpful when people are facing a life-threatening illness. On May 26, the final subject in Gasser’s study completed his last experimental therapy session. The clinical team at MAPS is now conducting a preliminary data analysis, finalizing the study’s database for the FDA and assisting Gasser in preparing a manuscript for publication. MAPS is also sponsoring other medical research into the psychotherapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs, and more studies are on the way. The medical and therapeutic value of LSD and other psychedelic drugs appears to be quite substantial—although, personally, I’m really looking forward to the day when this research can go beyond its initial potential as a psychotherapeutic tool, as well as a spiritual aid, and delve into the mysteries of creativity, psychic phenomena and the possible reality of parallel universes and non-human entity contact. Meanwhile, it seems like these mysterious substances hold enormous potential for treating numerous psychiatric disorders. Evidence suggests that they have the ability to help us treat post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, cluster headaches and other difficult-to-treat mental disorders—including, I suspect, the general neurosis that comes from simply being a human being. Award-winning author David Jay Brown uses the approaching completion of MAPS’ Swiss study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with life-threatening illness to explore the complex and controversial history of worldwide LSD research. As the first clinical LSD study in over 25 years, the completion of this study represents a monumental achievement for psychedelic science.