The Use of Psychedelic Drugs to Fight Alcoholism

Long before L.S.D. hit the cultural landscape in the 1960’s, it’s use was for entirely different things than consciousness expansion. Aside from the military and CIA, who were experimenting with L.S.D. for its potential as a ‘mind-control’ or truth serum, several doctors in different countries were conducting experiments with the drug in relation to substance abuse and specifically, alcoholism. There results back then (post-war into the early 1960’s) were indeed promising, but most or all of the funding for this was put to a halt in Autumn of 1966, when the drug was labeled an illegal substance. But recently, research involving psychedelics in alcoholism has restarted in different parts of the world.

Contemporary studies in Norway have discovered that L.S.D. prevented relapse through treatment.  The research involved 536 serious drinkers in all, two-thirds of whom were given LSD while others received comparison treatments. Fifty-nine percent of the LSD users evaded relapsing into alcohol abuse, contrast with 38 percent of the others, the new report observed.

"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. "Many patients said they had gained a new appreciation for their alcohol problem and new motivation to address it." The study appeared in March of 2012 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

One scientist who was not engaged in the research, Dr. Richard Ries, said the study "shakes the foundations of typical addiction treatments." But Ries, an addiction psychiatrist at the University Of Washington Department Of Psychiatry, cautioned that little is known about LSD's effects. Ries added there hasn't been enough research on LSD for its role as a treatment to be well-understood. "We don't know the effects of LSD, because these medicines carry all the baggage of illegality and biases," he said. "So the chance of them being evaluated fairly can be pretty low."

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) can distort sensitivity of reality and generate hallucinations. In substantial doses, the drug can cause certain people to be frightened or become anxious, escalating their body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

The research in the new analysis involved people, mostly men, who were admitted for treatment of alcohol abuse.  A total of 325 people received a single dose of LSD ranging from 210 to 800 micrograms, while the contrasting group, 211 people, received either a much smaller dose of LSD — 25 or 50 micrograms — or other alcohol treatment medications.

People who received the greater dose of LSD were less prone to relapse and had higher levels of abstinence than the others, the researchers said.  The greatest advance was seen during the first few months of treatment, but the change slowly decreased as the months passed. "It is unusual for psychiatric drugs to have an effect that continues for several months after a single dose," Johansen said. "We now better understand that alcohol is a chronic relapsing disorder that typically requires ongoing treatment."

The LSD was administered as part of the alcoholism treatment program. Some of the LSD users acted strangely, experiencing anxiety and confusion, the researchers reported. One person had a seizure, but that person had a history of alcohol withdrawal seizures and had been sober only a few days. When treating addiction, Ries said, medication works only if given as part of a treatment program. "If you try to use these drugs out of these contexts, you get no effect," he said. "They are meant to be part of an addiction treatment program, not to replace it."

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