Lsd And Its Use For Medical Purposes

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD, is a powerful psychoactive drug capable of producing extraordinary auditory, visual and somatosensory hallucinations in users. The substance allows the brain to see and interpret everyday things in much more contemplative ways. LSD experiences possess certain properties that would be advantageous in treating people with a variety of mental health complications. These effects would be valuable in allowing medical patients to fathom the underlying causes of their seemingly mundane thoughts and actions. Once identified, these underlying causes can be more effectively treated by a credible therapist. In a time when turning to addictive pharmaceutical drugs is all too common, maybe it is time to consider a safer and quicker alternative to treating mental illness.

LSD has been around since 1938 when German chemist Albert Hofmann was attempting to synthesize ergobasine in search of a blood stimulant. He created the concoction by combining lysergic acid with propanaline; the 25th compound he produced (LSD-25) resulted in what most people know as “LSD” today. The potential stimulant, however, proved ineffective for its purposes and the batch of LSD-25 was discarded. The hallucinogenic properties were not discovered until five years later in 1943 when Hofman recreated the compound. While doing so, he unintentionally consumed a microscopic dosage and states he was met with “an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors”. The way this drug works is still somewhat ambiguous but there are certain facts scientists have discovered about LSD’s effect on the brain. LSD is more efficient at activating serotonin receptors than serotonin itself; this elevated amount of serotonin allows the brain to engage in cross-talk. Cross talk is a phenomenon where parts of the brain normally inaccessible to each other, begin communicating because of the new connections made by certain neurotransmitters. This cross-talk effect is the most likely cause for why users report beneficial impacts from an LSD trip. The drug’s mind-altering properties allow them to comprehend and interpret things in ways they were previously sheltered from. This would provide future patients the ability to see revolutionary ways of dealing with their troubles, often resulting in them reaching great epiphanies. Although this effect only lasts as long as the drug’s duration, people say that what they learn through the experience during that time remains within their mindset, even though they are not entirely sure how they came about it. LSD is an extremely valuable substance capable of helping people in numerous ways and should be offered as a legal alternative in assisting patients with mental health issues.

Although credible evidence exists in support of potential benefits, the poor foundation in medical research, as well as the negative connotations affiliated with the term, has resulted in a stalemate of progress. LSD has been viewed as a controversial substance since the Sixties when many Americans saw it as detrimental to the progression of society as a whole. Today, the media continues to report that this psychedelic drug is nothing but dangerous. More negative connotations about LSD came from the CIA’s MK-Ultra project during the Cold War. The CIA tried to utilize LSD as a form of mind control because they believed the Soviets had been doing the same to America soldiers. They conducted many studies to see if this was possible. These studies were done by drugging unknowing subjects and spying on them in the following hours to document the effects. They were highly aware of how people would react if they discovered the CIA was administering an illegal drug to unwilling test subjects. The Inspector-General of 1957 even stated, “The knowledge that the Agency is engaging in unethical and illicit activities would have serious repercussions in political and diplomatic circles and would be detrimental to the accomplishment of its mission.” The General’s words proved true when the public became aware of this secret experiment in 1974. New York journalist Seymour Hersh published a story exposing the CIA for partaking in non-consensual drug experiments and illegally spying on citizens while doing so. His report was thorough and revealed many suppressed details about the secret project MK-Ultra. This information rightfully upset Americans since they were being deceived by their government. The newly uncovered information also inflated pre-existing views of LSD that were set in the 1960s.

During the 1960s there was a wave of unbacked claims about LSD. People were told using it caused birth defects, brain damage and homicidal rampages. These side effects were rare and occurred at such an infrequent rate that it would be nonsensical to claim that LSD directly caused any of the adverse symptoms listed. However, this overall idea that LSD was purely bad still swept the nation at an alarming rate. At first, only psychotherapists and psychiatrists had access to this miracle drug, but once LSD made its way to the streets, fabricated and misleading horror stories of LSD arose and it became illegal in the United States. This was largely due to a fear of people potentially ingesting fake LSD from untrustworthy sources. Anything except pure LSD is extremely dangerous because it can cause unknown mental and physical side effects for inexperienced users who do not know how to identify if their tab is pure. If LSD were to be allowed in psychotherapy, this would not pose a threat since the FDA would be required to regulate the drug. Another concern about LSD is having a bad trip, which is when one falls into a bad state of mind during the trip. This can cause distressing emotions in the user which can result in horrific hallucinations and thoughts. Symptoms of a bad trip include anxiety, paranoia, and ego death, a feeling of existential crisis (LSD). Although at the time these perceptions and feelings may seem terrifying and never-ending, “it could lead to beneficial long-term consequences when processed and integrated properly” (LSD). The Journal of Psychopharmacology conducted a study involving psilocybin mushrooms, which have similar effects to LSD. They found that 84% of test subjects who had a bad trip ultimately believed they benefited psychologically from the troubling experience. This means that if patients were to experience such a trip, it would still make a positive impact on most of their mental states. If introduced into the medical field, patients would need to pass a physical and mental evaluation to ensure their safety before being allowed to utilize LSD. This is because LSD use can negatively impact people who are at a high risk of developing psychosis-related illnesses. In some cases, LSD prompted full-blown psychotic episodes in patients fitting that criteria. With proper safety protocols and regulations, these instances would come to a standstill. Unfortunately, the clinical studies surrounding medical LSD use were abandoned when the substance was made illegal in 1968 and its potential was widely forgotten (Cosh). Scientifically sound evidence supporting the benefits of psychedelics is limited since the drug is illegal to use and still very controversial. There are countless reasons to view LSD as a valuable tool in improving everyday quality of life, but the exaggeration of potential complications has hindered the process.

The leading reason for LSD legalization in medical use is its potential for alleviating the degree to which people suffer from mental health issues like anxiety and depression. LSD as a form of psychotherapy is not a new concept. Before becoming illegal, therapists had found LSD to be particularly helpful in their work. LSD use caused patients to reduce their ego defenses which resulted in them being able to confront their deepest insecurities and issues in a collected way. Their therapists were also able to provide more constructive advice and treatments since the patients felt more comfortable in expressing their thoughts and feelings. Harvard psychology researchers Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert studied the effects of LSD on healthy graduate students and reported that the drug “permanently altered their lives in a very positive manner”. Unfortunately, their studies came to an abrupt halt after they broke Harvard’s guidelines and administered psychedelics to an undergraduate resulting in the termination of the study. Enzo Tagliazucchi, a neuroscientist at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences says, “It feels, in a way, like transferring the consciousness from within your body to the outside world; the focus is in the objects that surround you rather than inside.” This is how LSD allows people to see through their personal biases which enables them to interpret their particular situation in a more comprehensible way, dealing with their troubles accordingly. LSD can also help people in a variety of ways, even those not suffering from mental tribulations. Steve Jobs is open about his LSD use and says “Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important.” He attributes much of his success to the drug because it showed him that he needed to focus on more meaningful things, creating with the intent to put good into the world instead of to acquire money. Between 1963 to 1973 around 1,000 alcoholics in Topeka, Kansas were given LSD to help them overcome their alcoholism. The supervisor of the program reported that following the trip, 25% of them became completely abstinent from alcohol entirely, 25% partook in an occasional drink and no longer met the criteria for an alcoholic. The other 50% was divided with half showing substantial levels of improvement and half whose alcoholism went unaffected by the psychedelic. Along with mental health issues, LSD use can assist with overcoming drug and alcohol addiction and millions of people could reap its benefits if made accessible in medical facilities.

Although many people advocate that LSD has positively impacted their lives, there are still many who view it as a harmful substance with high potential for abuse. The Pharmacology of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide conducted a series of experiments with LSD and found that LSD poses no risk of long‐lasting effects on the human brain and that the drug has little to no addictive properties. LSD has been known to affect the psychological state of users but in positive ways. Some long-lasting impacts LSD can have is an increase in purpose, energy, production, and self-confidence. The research on LSD has not progressed far beyond this stage because the clinical benefits are overshadowed by the fallacious potential of misusing the drug. Hopefully, nation-wide use to qualifying medical patients will become available in the near future. LSD possesses a wide variety of benefits for medical purposes and should be considered as a viable and affordable non-addicting treatment option to patients suffering from a variety of mental illnesses and addictions. 

16 December 2021
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