LSD for depression? It may not be worth the trip

A psychiatrist writing in the New York Times today is taking on the trend of using the hallucinogen drug LSD to combat depression, saying it is untested and possibly dangerous.

Who knew taking acid might be dangerous? Anybody who ever had a bad trip, possibly.

Richard A. Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College.

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LSD is often taken in tiny paper tabs often decorated with a variety of images, in this case a heart.

He is empathetic that for the third of patients with major depression who get no relief from pharmaceuticals that hallucinogenics may offer some hope.  A recent psilocybin study claims that the mushroom-derived hallucinogenic relieves anxiety and depression.

Then there are the anecdotal reports about microdoses of LSD, as well a book on the subject.

Friedman says LSD is an unregulated drug in which users can’t be sure what they are even taking.

He says it is also too early to say that taking these drugs are not habit-forming, as proponents suggest. And studies of hallucinogenics have shown they can be debilitating behaviorally with bad trips or flashbacks in recreational users, Friedman points out.

 

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An illustration of LSD, Lysergic acid diethylamide.

Though Friedman doesn’t address it in his column, there is also hallucinogen persisting perception disorder that can affect users of LSD, MDMA, mushrooms and mescaline. One sufferer said he had been hallucinating that all trees sported human faces for two decades after one potent LSD trip.

“The bottom line is that we don’t know how safe or effective psychedelics are because most of the data have been anecdotal or from small trials,” Friedman writes.

Read the whole column by clicking here.

What a long, strange trip it’s been: Scientists map brain on LSD

In what is being called a scientific breakthrough, scientists for the first time have mapped the effect of LSD on the brain.

CNN reports that brain scans were taken from volunteers who agreed to take the drug associated with hallucinations and a feeling of oneness with the universe. The drug also can induce paranoia – or what is known among recreational users as a bad trip.

The findings have given researchers an unprecedented insight into the neural basis for effects produced by one of the most powerful drugs ever created.

 

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A new study shows what happens to brain when it takes LSD. Scientists feel the drug may have medicinal benefits. (Image: Imperial College London)

As a result, LSD is getting mad respect in scientific circles these days.

The Post reported in February about another study that found that long-term use of the drug could lead to improved psychological well-being. The Imperial College London study found that the use of the  creates “cognitive looseness” and leads to “highly enhanced mental flexibility.”

Imperial was at it again by taking these brain scans that revealed subjects experienced images through information drawn from many parts of their brains. Usually, it is just the visual cortex at the back of the head that normally processes visual information

In an even more intriguing finding, scientists learned the drug allowed regions of the brain once segregated to speak one another.

David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial, was ecstatic.

“This is to neuroscience what the Higgs boson was to particle physics,” he said. “We didn’t know how these profound effects were produced. It was too difficult to do. Scientists were either scared or couldn’t be bothered to overcome the enormous hurdles to get this done.”

LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, was first synthesized in 1938 and was part of extensive research until the 1960s when the drug started being used for recreation and led to it being banned.

In a story on the brain scan study in The Guardian, researchers said their findings  could pave the way for LSD or related chemicals to be used to treat psychiatric disorders.

Nutt said the drug could pull the brain out of thought patterns seen in depression and addiction through its effects on brain networks.

Amanda Feilding, director of the Beckley Foundation that helped fund the study said, said: “We are finally unveiling the brain mechanisms underlying the potential of LSD, not only to heal but also to deepen our understanding of consciousness itself.”