Neurophilosophy

The secret history of psychedelic psychiatry

This post is part of a Nature Blog Focus on hallucinogenic drugs in medicine and mental health, inspired by a recent Nature Reviews Neuroscience paper, The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders, by Franz Vollenweider & Michael Kometer. This article will be freely available, with registration, until September 23.  See the Table of Contents for more information on this Blog Focus, and read the other blog posts:

Update: I summarize all four posts in this article for The Guardian, and there’s more coverage of the Blog Focus at 3 Quarks Daily, The Atlantic (Alexis Madrigal and Andrew Sullivan), Boing Boing and The Great Beyond.

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ON August 15th, 1951, an outbreak of hallucinations, panic attacks and psychotic episodes swept through the town of Pont-Saint-Esprit in southern France, hospitalizing dozens of its inhabitants and leaving five people dead. Doctors concluded that the incident occurred because bread in one of the town’s bakeries had been contaminated with ergot, a toxic fungus that grows on rye. But according to investigative journalist Hank Albarelli, the CIA had actually dosed the bread with d-lysergic acid diethylamide-25 (LSD), an extremely potent hallucinogenic drug derived from ergot, as part of a mind control research project.

Although we may never learn the truth behind the events at Pont-Saint-Esprit, it is now well known that the United States Army experimented with LSD on willing and unwilling military personnel and civilians. Less well known is the work of a group of psychiatrists working in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, who pioneered the use of LSD as a treatment for alcoholism, and claimed that it produced unprecedented rates of recovery. Their findings were soon brushed under the carpet, however, and research into the potential therapeutic effects of psychedelics was abruptly halted in the late 1960s, leaving a promising avenue of research unexplored for some 40 years.

The secret history of psychedelic psychiatry began in the early 1950s, about 10 years after Albert Hofmann discovered the hallucinogenic properties of LSD, and lasted until 1970. It was uncovered by medical historian Erika Dyck, who examined the archives from Canadian mental health researchers and conducted interviews with some of the psychiatrists, patients and nurses involved in the early LSD trials. Dyck’s work shows early LSD experimentation in a new light, as a fruitful branch of mainstream psychiatric research: it redefined alcoholism as a disease that could be cured and played a role in the psychopharmacological revolution which radically transformed psychiatry. But, despite some encouraging results, it was cut short prematurely.

At the forefront of early psychedelic research was a British psychiatrist by the name of Humphry Osmond (1917-2004), a senior registrar at St. George’s Hospital in South London, who began investigating the chemical properties of mescaline, the psychoactive ingredient of the peyote cactus, during the late 1940s. After experimenting with the drug for nearly two years, Osmond and his colleagues concluded that it “caused symptoms in normal people that were similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia.” Further investigation led them to believe that the chemical structure of mescaline closely resembled that of adrenaline. As a consequence, they came to regard schizophrenia as being caused by an overproduction of adrenaline. In doing so, they had formulated what Osmond believed to be the first biochemical theory of mental illness.

In 1951, Osmond moved to Canada to take the position of deputy director of psychiatry at the Weyburn Mental Hospital in Saskatchewan and, with funding from the government and the Rockefeller Foundation, established a biochemistry research program. The following year, he met another psychiatrist by the name of Abram Hoffer, and the two embarked on a long-term collaboration. Osmond expanded his research program, and started using LSD instead of mescaline, because it was readily available from the Sandoz Pharmaceutical Company’s Canadian branch in Toronto.

The pair hit upon the idea of using LSD to treat alcoholism in 1953, at a conference in Ottawa. After arriving at their hotel, they were unable to sleep, and stayed up late discussing problems in psychiatry. In the small hours of the morning the conversation moved on to the similarities between the effects of LSD and the delirium tremens often experienced by alcoholics during withdrawal, and they began to wonder whether LSD could be effective in treating alcoholism. Hoffer recalls that the idea “seemed so bizarre that we laughed uproariously. But when our laughter subsided, the question seemed less comical and we formed our hypothesis: Would a controlled LSD-produced delirium help alcoholics stay sober?”

On their return to Saskatchewan, Osmond and Hoffer decided to test their hypothesis, and treated two chronic alcoholics who had been admitted to the Saskatchewan Mental Hospital with a single 200 microgram dose of LSD. Osmond knew from earlier self-experimentation that much smaller amounts were sufficient to produce profound changes in consciousness, but used very large doses for a stronger effect, the idea being that it would induce a terrifying artificial delirium that might frighten the patient into changing their drinking behaviour. One of the patients stopped drinking immediately after the treatment and remained sober for the entire six month period of the follow-up study. The other continued to drink after the experiment, but stopped after six months. Osmond and Hoffer found these results somewhat confusing, but concluded that LSD had a 50% chance of helping alcoholics.

The next Saskatchewan LSD trial was conducted several years later by Colin Smith, who treated 24 patients and reported that 12 of them were “improved” or “much improved” afterwards. Encouraged by these initial results, others began using the drug to treat alcoholics. Meanwhile, Osmond and Hoffer continued with their own research. By 1960, they had treated some 2,000 alcoholic patients with LSD, and claimed that their results were very similar to those obtained in the first experiment. Their treatment was endorsed by Bill W., a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous who was given several sessions of LSD therapy himself, and Jace Colder, director of Saskatchewan’s Bureau on Alcoholism, who believed it to be the best treatment available for alcoholics.

Osmond also “turned on” Aldous Huxley to mescaline, by giving the novelist his first dose of the drug in 1953, which inspired him to write the classic book The Doors of Perception. The two eventually became friends, and Osmond consulted Huxley when trying to find a word to describe the effects of LSD. Huxley suggested phanerothyme, from the Greek words meaning “to show” and “spirit”, telling Osmond: “To make this mundane world sublime/ Take half a gram of phanerothyme.” But Osmond decided instead on the term psychedelic, from the Greek words psyche, meaning “mind”, and deloun, meaning “to manifest”, and countered Huxley’s rhyme with his own: “To fathom Hell or soar angelic/Just take a pinch of psychedelic.” The term he had coined was announced at the meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1957.

LSD therapy peaked in the 1950s, during which time it was even used to treat Hollywood film stars, including luminaries such as Cary Grant. By then, two forms of therapy had emerged. Psychedelic (“mind-manifesting”) therapy was practised mostly in North America and involved intensive psychotherapy followed by a single megadose of LSD. It was thought that the transcendental experiences induced by such large doses, as well as heightened self-awareness, would enable the patient to reflect on their condition with greater clarity. Psycholytic (“mind-loosening”) therapy, on the other hand, was practised mostly in Europe, and involved regular low to moderate doses of the drug in conjunction with psychoanalysis, in order to release long-lost memories and reveal the unconscious mind.

The early LSD studies took place alongside trials of newly developed drugs such as the antipsychotic chlorpromazine and the tricyclic antidepressant imipramine. Together, these drug trials led to the emergence of the new field of psychopharmacology, and so caused a major paradigm shift that revolutionized psychiatry and “dragged it into the modern world”. The finding that psychedelics can induce schizophrenia-like symptoms bolstered the notion that psychiatric conditions are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. And psychiatrists, faced with new evidence that mental disorders can be effectively treated with drugs, began to abandon the psychoanalytical approach in favour of new disease models based on brain chemistry.

LSD hit the streets in the early 1960s, by which time more than 1,000 scientific research papers had been published about the drug, describing promising results in some 40,000 patients. Shortly afterwards, however, the investigations of LSD as a therapeutic agent came to an end for two reasons. Firstly, some researchers pointed at the flawed methodology of the studies. Most lacked proper controls, so that the patients involved were not randomly assigned into groups that received the real treatment or a placebo. Today, the randomized, placebo-controlled double blind study is the gold standard for clinical trials. The patient does not know whether they have been given the treatment or the placebo. The researcher should not know either, so that she does not bias the results with her expectations. Back then, though, this experimental design still had not been universally accepted as the best method for evaluating the efficacy of new drug treatments.

The second – and more important – reason was the cultural and political climate of the time. By the mid-1960s, LSD had became a popular recreational drug, and was closely linked to the hippie counterculture and related phenomena – student riots and anti-war demonstrations, non-conformity and social disobedience. The mass media increasingly portrayed LSD as a dangerous drug of abuse that could cause, among other things, chromosomal damage and foetal abnormalities. Sandoz voluntarily stopped making and supplying the drug in 1966, and the American, British and Canadian governments first placed severe restrictions on its use in research, then banned its use altogether in 1970. The documents pertaining to the Saskatchewan LSD trials were locked away, and gathered dust in the archives until they were re-discovered by Dyck five years ago.

The mid-1990s saw renewed interest in the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics, a key figure being Franz Vollenweider, who co-authored the new Nature Reviews Neuroscience paper. As the article explains, the new research confirms that psychedelics are indeed effective therapeutic agents, at least when given in combination with behavioural therapy, and can alleviate the symptoms of various psychiatric disorders. Sophisticated new techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) are providing fresh insights into how they affect the brain, and revealing the brain mechanisms that might underly their therapeutic effects.

We now know, for example, that the classical hallucinogens (LSD, psilocybin and mescaline) exert their effects by activating the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor subtype expressed by pyramidal cells in the deep layers of the prefrontal cortex. Serotonin is involved in signalling within a widely distributed neural circuit that is implicated in mood and affective disorders. Activation of the serotonin receptors in turn alters signalling mediated by glutamate and dopamine, and may also induce synaptic plasticity, modifying the strength of the long-range connections between the circuit components. The therapeutic effects of psychedelics may therefore be due to their ability to modulate the neuronal activity within these circuits.

Other new research shows that ketamine, a dissociative anaesthetic with hallucinogenic properties that acts primarily on the glutamatergic transmitter system, can effectively alleviate depression, and can also reduce the frequency of suicidal thoughts in depressed patients. A recent clinical trial showed MDMA (‘Ecstasy’) is beneficial for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. And some of Vollenwieder’s own research shows that psilocybin can alleviate anxiety and pain in terminally ill cancer patients. Remarkably, this recent work shows that some psychedelics are effective after just one dose; this has obvious advantages over other drug treatments, which can take many months or even years. But despite these advances, much remains to be discovered about how the psychedelics act on the brain and why they are of therapeutic value.

The history of LSD experimentation could be of use to those who make decisions about drug policy, too. The criminalization of LSD in 1970 was evidently a knee-jerk reaction by governments to the sensationalist media reports about the dangers of the drug that occurred without proper debate. A similar situation arose earlier this year, when the British government banned mephedrone. Examination of the reasons why the early LSD trials were brought to an end so abruptly could therefore provide valuable lessons about how controversial drugs could be effectively incorporated into modern medicine.

References:

Vollenweider F. X. &  Kometer, M. (2010). The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders. Nat. Rev. Neurosci.   11: 642-651. doi: 10.1038/nrn2884

Dyck, E. (2006). ‘Hitting Highs at Rock Bottom’: LSD Treatment for Alcoholism, 1950-1970. Soc. Hist. Med. 19: 313-219. [PDF]

Dyck, E. (2005). Flashback: Psychiatric Experimentation With LSD in Historical Perspective. Can. J. Psychiatry 50: 381-388. [PDF]

Smart, R. G. & Storm, T. (1966). The Efficacy of LSD in the Treatment of Alcoholism. Quart. J. Stud. Alcohol 25: 333-338. [PDF]

Comments

  1. #1 Eskimo
    August 30, 2010

    To what extent are hallucinogens thought to act in mood disorders similar to other drugs with putative antidepressant effects? One current hypothesis seems to be that alteration of neurotransmitters via medications such as SSRIs has a secondary effect stimulating BDNF.
    (Yes there have been problems seeing enough of a effect from supposed antidepressants beyond placebo in clinical studies. This assumes they really do have an antidepressant effect.)
    I wonder whether hallucinogens act by a similar mechanism, or is it a broader “what is the meaning of the universe” higher-order cognition effect that shocks the individual out of a rut?

  2. #2 Sven DiMilo
    August 30, 2010

    let’s talk about Jolly West…

  3. #3 Gene
    August 30, 2010

    “…some psychedelics are effective after just one dose;”

    And therein lies the primary reason, in our capitalist economy, why these drugs will never be accepted. What capitalist will invest the money to develop and show the efficacy of a drug when they can only sell one dose per patient?

  4. #4 Joe D
    August 30, 2010

    “concluded that LSD had a 50% chance of helping alcoholics.”

    on an ‘n’ of 2?

  5. #5 Mo
    August 30, 2010

    @Eskimo: The molecular mechanisms and cognitive effects are linked, and the aim of neuroscience is to bridge the gap between the two.

    @Sven: Here it is – West’s classic 1962 paper, Lysergic acid diethylamide: Its effects on a male Asiatic elephant. (Acid probably was not the cause of death.)

    @Joe D: As I said, flawed terminology.

  6. #6 g725
    August 31, 2010

    As someone who is familiar with the legitimate research in this field, I’m very happy to see it resuming without a lot of media hype and political nonsense.

    I’d like to suggest an approach that I have so far not seen in the literature: subclinical doses used over an extended period of time.

    For example:

    The standard clinical dose of LSD (to produce all of the well-known effects) is approx. 100 – 200 micrograms for a person of average body weight. The threshold dose for detectable changes in cognition is in the range of 15 – 25 micrograms for a person of average mental abilities and no particular training in mental disciplines such as meditation.

    However: what happens if we give someone a dose on the order of 1 – 5 micrograms daily? At that level there will be no detectable altered state, though arguably, someone trained in mindfulness meditation might notice a very slight change at 5 micrograms. Yet, the drug will have subtle effects on the brain, that may become cumulative over time.

    I tend to believe that LSD on that kind of dosing schedule will alleviate some of the symptoms of normal age-related cognitive decline. (And a formulation of LSD compounded with other drugs may also be patentable, thereby giving Big Pharma an incentive:-)

    The item about ketamine and depression is new to me and very interesting: it also lends itself to this approach. For example, administer a clinical dose of ketamine on day 1, for rapid recovery from a suicidal depression; and then follow up with a threshold dose the next day, and subclinical doses each day thereafter. The prospect of an antidepressant without the nasty side effects of even the current crop of SSRIs, is certainly worth pursuing.

    Similarly, could daily subclinical doses of entactogens such as MDMA, administered to children who have symptoms of antisocial personality disorder, prevent them turning into adult sociopaths? A medical treatment for sociopathy would be an absolute breakthrough in this area.

    The going hypothesis here is that the neurochemical action of these drugs is important in and of itself, as an entirely separate and distinct issue from their subjective effects such as “deep personal sense of meaning.”

    Subclinical dosages are a way to test that hypothesis, and perhaps lead to new treatment modalities for difficult psychiatric conditions.

    I’m going to email Vollenweider and see what he thinks about this.

  7. #7 Teodoro
    August 31, 2010

    Wondefully written!
    I know an individual that swears ketamine works better than anything for him for his lyme disease as well.

  8. #8 Nowhere Girl
    August 31, 2010

    A few details…
    1. How is a succesful double-blind study of psychedelics possible? These substances have such an effect that even a completely drug-naive patient will know whether he or she has received “the real thing” or a placebo. Surely there were attempts to find a placebo, but all failed. Pahnke (study on mystical experiences occasioned by psilocybin, 1964) gave the control group nicotinic acid, so they would experience slight somatic distress and think they actually received psilocybin. But when the real psilocybin effects started, everyone – the subjects and the researchers – clearly knew who had received what.
    Another proposition is to use some stimulant. But I think in this case too the patient would soon know whether he or she had received the psychedelic or the placebo. If you test, let’s say, eye drops versus saline solution, the patient can’t notice any effects at once. But the effects of psychedelics are of such a kind that it’s not possible not to be aware of them. Perhaps some kind of single-blind study would be possible – just the results being evaluated by someone who hasn’t witnessed the sessions. But it’s impossible not to let the patient know what was in the pill.
    2. In my opinion it’s important to clearly say that the connection of LSD to chromosomal damage was completely ungrounded. This is just false. It was an in vitro experiment on the effects of an LSD solution on a cell sample. In such concentration even milk would lead to chromosomal abnormalities. There is absolutely no proof of LSD or any other serotonergic psychedelic leading to chromosome damage in vivo. And still the meme caught on, this belief can still be found. An acquaintance said something along the lines of: “I wouldn’t take it because it damages the genes and I would like to have children someday” (“because I’m a NORMAL WOMAN, unlike you, you feminist and wannabe psychonaut”? – this is, of course, just my reconstruction of a possible motivation).
    3. And generally it’s incredible that such promising research was completely crushed because of the late 60s moral panic around psychedelics. And even if there are much less obstacles to research, even if psychedelic psychotherapy is somewhat accepted again – it’s still a long way to lat people try these substances if they want. And if we have a constitutional right to privacy, we also have a right to use psychedelics.

  9. #9 SC
    August 31, 2010

    I want to throw in some skepticism. I don’t believe that psychiatric problems can be cured *completely* by chemicals. For two reasons.

    First, a close relative of mine had a psychotic episode, and after that, she mixed up imagined events, real events and memories. Drugs didn’t work, they mostly just put her to sleep.

    Two, I have a hard time understanding how changing chemical levels *across* the brain *randomly* could fix such a mix-up of events, particularly if this mix-up has been happening for a while.

    My mental model of pharmacological intervention goes like this: a program in your computer has crashed, and your solution is to sprinkle some Germanium, or some other doping element, on the computer’s chip.

    This is a caricature, of course, but the essential approach of pharmacology is similar. It is totally unclear to me how sprinkling LSD or L-Dopa across the whole brain could lead to, for instance, a disentanglement of memories, actions and imaginings. It may lower further entanglements, but chances are, the patient will also lose some other functions in the process — kinda like what would happen if you sprinkle Germanium on the chip.

  10. #10 Jim
    August 31, 2010

    @SC: The interesting thing about LSD is that it isn’t equivalent to “sprinkling” a chemical on the brain. You will have to experience it to understand how it can be helpful, as it isn’t simply a chemical reaction. It is a mystically profound experience that can reconnect a consciousness / universe. It is this profound religious experience and the ability to reflect on your existence at a higher level (again, must be experienced to be understood) that helps people. Also, you can remember many of your profound realizations afterward and can use these going forward in your life.

  11. #11 M Cope
    August 31, 2010

    I have a friend (now 88) who used LSD to treat anorexics in South Africa during the ’60s, with, he claimed, excellent results. Then the research was shut down towards the end of the decade and never mentioned again.

    Another friend was the Sandoz rep – and he schlepped around Cape Town in the 1960s with a brief-case full of LSD, trying with some success to interest the medical community (and turning his friends on).

  12. #12 g725
    August 31, 2010

    Re. NowhereGirl #8:

    Good point about the difficulty of running double-blind controlled experiments, and good to hear that you know about Pahnke’s study. There was a follow-up study on mystical experience a couple of years ago by Roland Griffiths, that in my opinion did a darn good job on this point.

    First, he worked with drug-naive subjects, which is a necessary starting point in many studies of this type.

    Second, he used a number of active controls: various stimulants and depressants that are ordinarily prescription drugs. Thus, drug-naive subjects would feel subjective effects and experience altered states of some kind, which in combination with expectation effects, would heighten the probability that they too would have mystical or quasi-mystical experiences. The point here being to raise the control scores as far as possible, thereby maximizing the probability that the effect shown for the test compound (psilocybin) was *not* significant. In other words, per normal scientific method, take steps to attempt to falsify your own hypothesis.

    Third, subjects were given eyeshades and headphones, with which to lie down on a couch and quietly listen to classical music. With all the subjects lying there quietly, the possibility of overt behavioral cues to the session observers was minimized, in contrast to the Pahnke study where subjects interacted verbally with the session observers.

    As well, the procedure of lying down wearing eyeshades and listening to classical music over headphones, is likely to induce subjective effects in many subjects, including visual imagery that might be interpreted as a drug effect. This would heighten the effects of the placebos, once again increasing the probability of falsifying the hypothesis that psilocybin’s effects were unique.

    There were some other details that impressed me about Griffiths’ study, that I don’t recall at the moment (I’m writing this quickly while at work), but that had to do with the strength of his protocol and the steps taken to attempt to falsify the psilocybin/mystical experience hypothesis.

    That said, a standard clinical dose of any psychedelic does produce certain unmistakable effects such as vivid imagery, that can become confounds unless carefully controlled per Griffiths: and thereby narrowing the range of controlled experimentation that can be performed under double-blind conditions.

    This can be a problem with any procedure used in consciousness research, whether psychoactive drugs, meditation, hypnosis, or whatever. How can you tell if someone is doing a meditation procedure correctly, other than by their subjective reports? And merely doing the procedure does not guarantee an outcome: a standard hypnotic induction may not produce a trance state reliably in all subjects (this is well known in clinical hypnosis: different clients require different induction procedures, per Milton Erickson’s work in this field).

    These types of considerations led Charles Tart to develop the idea of state-specific sciences, as a research paradigm that could potentially offer entirely new methodologies that would be intrinsic to the states being studied. His paper was originally published in _Science_ in 1972, but can be found here:

    http://www.paradigm-sys.com/ctt_articles2.cfm?id=53

    Tart was decades ahead of his time with this, and anyone who is interested in this field should read his paper.

    Re. SC, #9: No one today would reasonably suggest that psychedelic drugs in and of themselves are some kind of psychiatric panacea. They are useful under certain limited conditions, when used with appropriate counseling: for example in coming to terms with events that led to PTSD, or in dealing with the psychological issues in life-threatening illness.

    My suggested subclinical dosage protocol is not the same thing, since it is not geared toward producing an altered state and addressing psychodynamic issues. And here also, only a limited range of application, as with other psych meds: for example one wouldn’t prescribe an antidepressant to treat anxiety, or an antianxietal to treat depression.

    There is a broader issue here, having to do with the way health care is handled in the US, where financial considerations often work against providing adequate counseling in cases where medication can at least get someone well enough to get back to work. For example antidepressants can treat the biological factors that produce depression, but counseling is still necessary to address the psychological factors such as learned behaviors and attitudes that arise when a person has been depressed for a period of time. Yet very often, the counseling is neglected or minimized in the interests of economics, and this is an issue that needs to be addressed. (This forum is not the place to get into the larger health-care debate.)

    Re. Jim #10: For some people, psychedelics produce mystical experiences, but that is not a foregone conclusion, and for some people psychedelics can be harmful to their psychological wellbeing. We have to be careful here to not become advocates in a manner that could result in media controversies and in people misusing these drugs as occurred decades ago. This is especially important now that the FDA is taking a more reasonable approach in authorizing human subject studies.

    Also let’s not forget that the traditional means of access to mystical experience, notably meditation, are not only safe for virtually everyone, but also immediately accessible to anyone who wishes to pursue them. Forty or fifty years ago, access to meditation was far more difficult, and required finding a credible teacher (these were few and far-between, and outnumbered by self-made gurus of varying qualifications). Today, the information is literally at our fingertips via the internet.

  13. #13 Eric Braun
    September 1, 2010

    My father, Dr. Bennett Braun, who wrote the DSM III-R definition of multiple personality disorder, also supervised the testing of LSD and other substances for the army at Edgewood Arsenal.

    President Bush Sr. shredded all info regarding these and other MK-ULTRA projects when he was CIA Director.

    Good fun, knowing your tax dollars are hard at work!

  14. #14 Mo
    September 2, 2010

    Here’s an interview with another pioneer of psychedelic psychiatry, Ronald Sandison.

  15. #16 Marc
    September 2, 2010

    Interesting – do you have a reference for the MDMA/PTSD info? (“A recent clinical trial showed MDMA (‘Ecstasy’) is beneficial for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder”.)

  16. #17 Mo
    September 2, 2010

    @Marc: The paper’s just been published in the Journal of Psychophsarmacology: The safety and efficacy of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine-assisted
    psychotherapy in subjects with chronic, treatment-resistant posttraumatic
    stress disorder: the first randomized controlled pilot study [PDF].

    Enjoy!

  17. #18 Sami
    September 5, 2010

    @Nowhere Girl, Problems with maintaining the blind of clinician and patient are not unique to psychedelic research – the same issues arise in studies of psychotherapy, surgery, and many medications. As you mention, more important than maintaining a strict double-blind is to randomize the subjects and to have independent, blinded assessment of baseline and outcome measures. Another possible method for clinical studies with psychedelics is to have a range of doses and look for a dose-response relationship.

    @g725, Do you know of anyone who has tried your suggested daily subtreshold LSD regime? Also, you say that meditation is “safe for virtually everyone” – this is an exaggeration, there have been reports of adverse effects from mediation.

  18. #19 S. Danori
    September 6, 2010

    Wasn’t LSD outlawed for any purpose in 1965, not 1970? I think it was the Drug Abuse Control Amendments that criminalized it throughtout the USA…

    http://www.druglibrary.org/special/king/dhu/dhu26.htm

  19. #20 E Wolke
    September 8, 2010

    Odd — For many years I took an ergotamine derivative for the treatment of migraine, before the “advancement” of the triptans (one of which is the therapeutic agent I use currently). I was not formally diagnosed and adequately treated for migraine until I was in college, though the headaches manifested around puberty (about 12 years old in my case). I had a rather miserable adolescence.

    I vividly remember the incredible relief of taking my first Cafergot tablet, the mild nausea it caused, and the hallucinations. They were different from the prodromal hallucinations that I suffer in that they weren’t ominous, warning me to go to a dark place Right Soon Now or there would be Consequences… they were just things that I saw that I knew weren’t really there. I could even talk to some of them, if they were people, still knowing it was just my imagination and the chemical. Good thing my roommate wasn’t there for most of them.

    Don’t get me wrong, the triptans work as well if not better (with the exception of the first one, Imitrex, which gives me chest pain and scares the stuffing out of me), but I have to say that I almost miss the little creatures. With few exceptions, they were benign, and almost amusing. I never was a user of illicit drugs, so that’s the closest I’ve come to anything of the sort. That being said, I’d be willing to volunteer for a study on say, ketamine or a hallucinogen for the relief of depression with the proper guidance and help; I am no longer of childbearing age and few medications have proven effective in the long term. Perhaps it’s a habit to break with a literal “brain reset”.

  20. #21 Julien
    September 9, 2010

    Hey. Just a detail : the name of the city is “Pont-Saint-Esprit”.

  21. #22 Mo
    September 9, 2010

    @S. Danori: I’m not sure exactly when it was banned.

    @Julien: Thanks – it’s fixed now.

  22. #23 Crazy Mermaid
    September 11, 2010

    While I was hospitalized in the psychiatric ward of a mental hospital, my roommate, a married 21 year old woman with a 1 1/2 year old little girl, was brought into that same psycho ward on a four point restraint board because she was in the middle of a psychotic break caused by an overdose of LSD. Very powerful stuff.

  23. #24 Guy Fawkes
    September 14, 2010

    @Mermaid. You can overdose on water with neurotoxic effects too. A touch anecdotal for the discussion maybe?

  24. #25 know
    September 18, 2010

    Personally, LSD & psychedelics has raised my awareness regarding the wonders & mysteries of life. I hope one day the propaganda surrounding these spiritual molecules will wither away, and it begins with those who have benefited spiritually & mentally by taking a stand and speaking up when one speaks ill of it due to prejudice & ignorance.

    Peace all

  25. #26 Diggy
    September 20, 2010

    Heya,
    Just landed on your blog through a bit of surfing. Interesting article, I never do drugs but I do sometimes hang around people who take them, and sometimes also hallucegenic drugs.

    I don’t see or understand the fun in seeing all sorts of fairies and goblins and whatever else, it messes you up so bad!

    Cheers
    Diggy

  26. #27 Duilio Garofoli
    September 24, 2010

    From my old reminescence of my neuropharmacology exam, I remember that my professor insisted on the fact that LSD was not connected to neurotoxic effects, at least on the nervous system of the fruitor and therefore it shouldn’t kill the “neuronal cell”. At the same time, the professor stressed the concept that LSD was associated with the revelation of hidden psychoses, or, in other words, that this drug might increase the chances of developing skyzophrenia in subjects that show a degree of predisposition. I don’t know exactly how research on this subject has evolved, but I always considered this fact as interesting from a psychiatric perspective.

    What do you think about.

    DG

  27. #28 Neuromancer
    September 28, 2010

    Hi, I have just read your post and it’s very interesting. Can I translate it in my italian blog about psychotherapy and neuroscience? I would cite your blog, of course.

  28. #29 Buffalo
    October 3, 2010

    Growing up in the 60′s I had an opportunity to ingest some LSD before it became illegal. I believe that it was Owsely’s product which to my understanding had a high level of purity and that the dosage was high by today’s standards. My recollection is that my friends and I split one small purple pill 4 ways and still got very “stoned” to the point where none of us could not drive a car during the peak of the experience. Another recollection was that we were able to experience ESP (from what I can remember???). This always fascinated me as I never took LSD again after it became illegal. I’m curious if studies have been done around this property of the drug. It was quite amazing. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who had this experience. Might make a good scientific study? clarkewinz@hotmail.com

  29. #30 keith
    October 18, 2010

    This is a very important topic in relation to psychology counseling for anyone to read about. The topics that licensed psychologists need to learn about is never ending.

  30. #31 Ras
    October 25, 2010

    @Buffalo:

    Here’s an entertaining yet quite un-scientific study into the ESP properties of what I expect to be psilocybin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz7k00544PA
    (“One Step Beyond – the sacred mushroom” 1961)

  31. #32 Crazy Mermaid
    November 1, 2010

    Hey Mr. Science Blog Guy: Where have you been? We miss you.

  32. #33 Anna
    March 5, 2011

    But according to investigative journalist Hank Albarelli, the CIA had actually dosed the bread with d-lysergic acid diethylamide-25 (LSD), an extremely potent hallucinogenic drug derived from ergot, as part of a mind control research project.

    WHAT? In a European town? If that is true then the American government is in grave legal, moral and diplomatic trouble. It doesn’t really matter how long time ago it is… there are most likely plenty of victims, and relatives to victims (both dead and psychotic victims), to raise lawsuits.

  33. #34 vanita singh
    May 23, 2011

    You can try to practice nirvana in yoga.It is much better solution than hallucinogenic drugs.

  34. #35 Scott
    May 30, 2011

    Ergotism — the symptoms that struck Pont-Saint-Esprit — had been observed, on occasion, for hundreds of years. It’s much more plausible that the town was struck by another ergot outbreak than that the US government was involved.

    On another note, how can you write a whole post about psychedelic psychotherapy without mentioning Stanislav Grof??? His book LSD Psychotherapy is the distillation of many years of careful observation of the effects of LSD on his patients. It’s a must-study for anyone interested in this area.