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The War on Drugs: History, Policy, and Therapeutics

What is LSD?

LSD, abbreviation of lysergic acid diethylamide, also called lysergide, potent synthetic hallucinogenic drug that can be derived from the ergot alkaloids (as ergotamine and ergonovine, principal constituents of ergot, the grain deformity and toxic infectant of flour caused by the fungus Claviceps purpurea). LSD is usually prepared by chemical synthesis in a laboratory. Its basic chemical structure is similar to that of the ergot alkaloids, and it is structurally related to several other drugs (e.g., bufotenine, psilocybin, harmine, and ibogaine), which can all block the action of serotonin (the indole amine transmitter of nerve impulses) in brain tissue.

LSD produces marked deviations from normal behaviour, probably the consequence of its ability to inhibit the action of serotonin, though the mechanism of the drug remains uncertain. LSD was used experimentally in medicine as a psychotomimetic agent to induce mental states that were believed to resemble those of actual psychotic diseases (primarily the schizophrenias). After administration, LSD can be absorbed readily from any mucosal surface—even the ear—and acts within 30 to 60 minutes. Its effects usually last for 8 to 10 hours, and occasionally some effects persist for several days.

Jenkins, J. Philip (2020). LSDEncyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/LSD

LSD's Effects on the Brain

LSD Gets Another Look | Full Report | Retro Report on PBS

Does LSD Really Have a Medical Use?

Introductory Library Resources

Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of the Therapeutic Use of LSD in Human Beings

LSD-Assisted Psychotherapy

MAPS has completed the first double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the therapeutic use of LSD in human beings since the early 1970s.

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a semi-synthetic compound first developed in 1938 by Dr. Albert Hofmann at the Sandoz pharmaceutical company in Basel, Switzerland. After Dr. Hofmann first discovered its effects in 1943, LSD quickly became recognized for its possible therapeutic effects. LSD also played a significant role in the discovery of the serotonin neurotransmitter system.

Our completed Phase 2 pilot study in 12 subjects found positive trends in the reduction of anxiety following two LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions. The study results also indicate that LSD-assisted psychotherapy can be safely administered in these subjects, and justify further research.

LSD is known for its ability to catalyze spiritual or mystical experiences and to facilitate feelings of interconnection. MAPS is interested in this substance for its potential to help people with a variety of conditions, focusing primarily on the treatment of anxiety associated with life-threatening illness, as well as for spiritual uses, creativity, and personal growth.

There is considerable previous human experience using LSD in the context of psychotherapy. From the 1950s through the early 1970s, psychiatrists, therapists, and researchers administered LSD to thousands of people as a treatment for alcoholism, as well as for anxiety and depression in people with advanced stage cancer. MAPS' completed and future research conforms to modern drug development standards, and will help guide the development of additional research into the risks and benefits of LSD-assisted psychotherapy.

LSD-Assisted psychotherapy. MAPS. Retrieved from https://maps.org/research/psilo-lsd.

Comprehensive Bibliography of Psilocybin Resources Made Available By MAPS