Studies on LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) date all the way back to the 1930s and peaked during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s as scientists and psychologists attempted to discover the full effects of LSD on the human body and mind.
A new study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, has looked at how LSD can be used medicinally in the management of persistent pain. According to researchers, clinical studies in the 1960s and ’70s discovered the analgesic effects of full doses of LSD in terminally ill patients but the research was squashed when LSD was scheduled around the world.
Led by a team of researchers from Maastricht University in The Netherlands, and with assistance from the Beckley Foundation, this new study is the first of its kind testing LSD as an analgesic since the 1960s.
“From a medical point of view, controlled research on the efficacy of LSD in pain management should focus on non-hallucinogenic, low doses of LSD, which are more manageable and thus preferable over treatment with high doses of LSD that produce full-blown psychedelic effects,” researchers said.
The study included 24 healthy participants who each received single doses of five, 10, and 20 micrograms of LSD, or a placebo. In order to test pain tolerance levels, researchers administered a low-risk assessment called the Cold Pressor Test.
Participants were asked to submerge their hands into a tank filled with cold water sitting at a temperature of three degrees for as long as they could manage. Researchers measured how long participants could withstand the cold water (which, in turn, gave them an insight into the participants’ pain tolerance) as well as subjective ratings of unpleasantness, stress and painfulness.
According to the Beckley Foundation, researchers found that a 20 microgram dose of LSD significantly reduced the perception of pain when compared to the placebo. The lower doses of LSD did not have the same effect.
With the 20 micrograms dosage, pain tolerance increased by roughly 20% and the volunteers were able to keep their hands immersed for substantially longer. These effects were also found to be as strong at five hours after the dosage as they were at one and a half hours post-dosage, which means this amount could create a “halo” effect for pain management.
The researchers also found that the level of psychological and cognitive interference produced by the 20 microgram dose was pretty mild and didn’t seem to interfere with normal operations.
“The present data suggests low doses of LSD could constitute a useful pain management treatment option that is not only effective in patients but is also devoid of the problematic consequences associated with current mainstay drugs, such as opioids,” Amanda Feilding, founder and director of the Beckley Foundation and co-director of the Beckley/Maastricht Microdosing Research Programme, said.
“I am encouraged by these results as I have long believed that LSD may not only change the sensations of pain but also our subjective relationship with it. We must continue to explore this with the aim of providing safer, non-addictive alternatives to pain management, and to bring people in pain a step closer to living happier, healthier and fully expressed lives.”
While it’s still early days for studies of this nature, its heartening to see that pain management could be tackled in an alternative way that doesn’t involve the use of opioids. Watch this space!