Before LSD became widely used by the Woodstock generation, scientists explored the potential of using the hallucinogenic drug to treat anxiety, pain and alcoholism.
Researchers in Norway have recently revisited the question of whether LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is an effective treatment option for alcoholism.
A research team from Norway’s University of Science and Technology reviewed six U.S. studies on LSD and alcoholism conducted between 1966 and 1970. The studies included 536 people under treatment for alcoholism. One group of test subjects was given a single dose of LSD while a control group was given a stimulant, no drug or a smaller dose of LSD.
LSD Was Proven to Be Helpful in Alcoholism Treatment in The U.S.
The results of the studies from the 1960s found that about 60% of subjects who were given a full dose of LSD showed a clear improvement compared to 38% of the control group. The test subjects who took LSD were also found to be less likely to relapse and return to abusing alcohol again. The group also reported a new feeling of openness and self-acceptance. The improved mood lasted for several days after the administration of LSD, gradually fading as treatment continued.
One year after the administration of LSD, there was no longer a measurable improvement in the group that took LSD.
This suggests that if LSD is used in combination with alcoholism treatment, repeated doses would be needed to avoid relapse.
According to Norwegian researchers Teri Krebs and Pal-Orjan Johansen, it is puzzling why the beneficial effects of LSD on alcoholism have been largely overlooked for decades. The pair also acknowledges that the turbulent history of LSD may have precluded further clinical trials in the 1960s and 1970s.
Dr. Richard Ries, an addiction specialist at the University of Washington, notes that using one drug to fight addiction to another substance is not new. For example, methadone is used to counteract heroin addiction. At the same time, Dr. Ries warns that little is known about the side effects of LSD. Alcoholics should not attempt to self-medicate by taking LSD or other drugs. Using any type of medication for alcoholism should only be done under medical supervision in the context of a legitimate treatment program.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that LSD distorts reality and causes audio and visual hallucinations during frightening “trips” that can last up to 12 hours. Side effects can include anxiety, panic, extreme confusion and an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. LSD may not currently receive as much publicity as it did in the 1960s and 1970s, but a 2009 survey found that almost 800,000 Americans over the age of 12 said they has used LSD at least once in the previous year.
The Norwegian research was presented in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.