It’s usually associated with Woodstock hippies and spiritual enlightenment. But Norwegian researchers are saying they’ve found a new purpose for LSD: treating alcoholism.
A meta-analysis of six studies from the 1960s showed that 59% of participants who took a single dose of LSD — which is also known by its street name, acid — either quit drinking or drastically reduced their alcohol consumption. The paper, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, analyzed data from 536 adults, of which only eight experienced “bad trips.”
The patients treated with LSD were given one dose of between 210 and 800 micrograms, which, according to the results, seemed to help prevent them from relapsing during their treatment for alcoholism. The effects lasted from two months to six months after treatment, with no improvement after a year. According to the BBC, the authors suggested the possibility that the effects could be sustained with more regular doses.
“LSD worked in an entirely different way than any current psychiatric drugs,” said study researcher Teri Krebs of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who was quoted by MSNBC. “Many patients said they had gained a new appreciation for their alcohol problem and new motivation to address it.”
The results were attributed to LSD’s interference with serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays a role in mood, appetite and sleep. But if you’re imagining a bunch of people with flowers in their hair sitting in a field, holding hands and seeing Teletubbies playing in front of them, think again. These trips weren’t fun, according to Time Healthland.
In one of the trials, patients were actually strapped to their beds and humiliated in an attempt to alter their personalities. “Previous studies on LSD suggest that researchers may have underestimated the drug’s potential by using it as part of a counterproductive therapeutic strategy,” the Time article said.
Lysergic acid diethylamide is not addictive and not associated with brain damage, though people who have bad trips often experience high anxiety and frightening delusions. The hallucinogen has also been associated with a psychological phenomenon known as “flashbacks,” in which people re-experience the effects of a trip even though the effects of the drug wore off a long time (usually days) ago.
Tell us: Should researchers further investigate LSD’s potential use as a treatment for alcoholism?