Could LSD cure society’s problem with alcohol?

Alcohol abuse is one of the biggest health problems in the EU. Alcohol is highly addictive, highly toxic, and does unrivalled damage to society. In men aged 16-54, alcohol is the number one killer in the UK 1. In 2012, the UK saw over a million hospital admissions due to alcohol. Alcohol abuse currently costs EU countries around €125 billion a year – over 1% of these countries’ GDPs. In 2010, Professor David Nutt and a panel of experts ranked alcohol as the most harmful drug in the country, in terms of both its harm to users and others 2. Alcohol addiction is powerful, dangerous and deadly.


Ironically, hope for treating alcoholism could lie in a drug that the UK Home Office regards as one of the most dangerous in existence; LSD. After its discovery as a psychedelic drug in the 1960s, LSD was used by therapists who thought its effects could help treat problems like depression and addiction 3. When LSD was classed as an illegal drug, its use in therapy dwindled, and research into its potentially healing properties was stifled.

Although LSD research is still possible today, it’s extremely expensive and highly restricted; costs increase tenfold compared to trials on unrestricted compounds, and jumping the necessary hurdles can take many years. Before LSD was made illegal, a considerable amount of research was published in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, when it was still easy to obtain and therapists were convinced of its medical value. Recently, two scientists decided to look back on six of these studies to see if there is really any merit in using LSD as a treatment for alcoholism 4.

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Classic psychedelics could open new doors in the treatment of depression

Psychedelics have huge potential to benefit society in a number of ways – but perhaps the most immediate is the treatment of suffering. From psilocybin as a salve for end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients 1, to LSD as a potential treatment of alcoholism 2, psychedelics are increasingly showing their medical value. Recently, a group of investigators from UCL headed by Dr Robin Carhart-Harris and Professor David Nutt, have released a handful of studies investigating psychedelics, supported by the pioneering Beckley Foundation. All together, these studies support the idea that classic psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and LSD could lead to new treatments for depression.

Nutt Harris Fielding

Authors of the studies, Dr Carhart-Harris (left) and Professor Nutt (middle) with Beckley Foundation creator Amanda Fielding (right). Picture: Beckley Foundation.

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