LSD used to treat terminally ill patients in clinical trials

LSD used to treat terminally ill patients in clinical trials

Published at 9:06 PM on 12th August 2008

Psychedelic drugs including LSD could be used to help patients with terminal illnesses or cancer, it has been revealed.

Doctors are examining whether the distorted sense of reality created by the drugs could help patients come to terms with their illness and improve the quality of their remaining life.

Magic mushrooms and Ecstasy could also feature in the ‘psychedelic psychotherapy’ medicine cabinet, they added.

In the first clinical trial on LSD for more than 35 years, Swiss researchers are looking at whether the drug can ease anxiety symptoms in some terminally ill patients.

The subjects will receive different doses of LSD and their quality of life and pain levels will then be assessed.

Previous trials in the U.S. have suggested psilocybin – which is similar to LSD and is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms – helped some patients make the most of the time they had left.

Professor Roland Griffiths, a psilocybin researcher from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, said: ‘The working hypothesis is that if psilocybin or LSD can occasion the experiences of great personal meaning and spiritual significance… then it would allow [patients with terminal illnesses] to face their own demise completely differently – to restructure some of the psychological angst that so often occurs concurrently with severe disease.’

However, many doctors are unconvinced LSD has any part to play in modern medicine.

The drug was banned around the world after a number of users leapt to their deaths believing they could fly.

Dr Albert Hofmann, inventor of LSD, and magic mushrooms. Both drugs are known for their reality-altering properties

While the full results have yet to be made public, some of those taking part credited the drug with allowing them to release their feelings and make the most of the time they had left.

Norbert Litzinger, said psilocybin had transformed the outlook of his wife Pamela Sakuda when she was in the late stages of bowel cancer.

‘Pamela had lost hope,’ he said. ‘She wasn’t able to make plans for the future. She wasn’t able to engage the day as if she has a future left’.

Treatment allowed her to realise that her fear about the disease was destroying the remaining time she had left, he said.

Professor Charles Grob, who is carrying out the trials at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in California, said: ‘I think there is a perception these compounds hold untapped potential to help us understand the human mind.’

Elsewhere, psilocybin has shown promise in tackling severe headaches known as cluster headaches and ecstasy is being researched as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Vanda Taylor, of charity Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Research into the use of a variety of drugs to help with pain, anxiety and quality of life, may lead to better treatments and help patients cope better with their illness.’

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A third article about the psychedelic renaissance appeared online in the Mail Online (Permalink) reported about the clinical trials with LSD, MDMA and psilocybin. Norbert Litzinger, the husband of the late Pamela Sakuda, declared that Sakuda’s participation the Grobs psilocybin study greatly benefited the final days of her life.