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LSD and Mental Illness October 8, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness, Mental Illness and Medication.
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8 comments

Everyone knows that LSD is a dangerous drug, capable of driving us out of our minds.  We’ve heard this refrain all of our lives:  LSD is the most dangerous of the dangerous drugs. Stay away from this drug at all costs.

But new evidence suggests that we reconsider this idea. It’s quite possible that this drug is a solution rather than a problem. Instead of driving us out of our minds, new evidence suggests that LSD is capable of restoring a sense of sanity to the insane.

Even in the early 1960’s the drug began to change the face of psychology as we know it. Prior to this, it was common “knowledge” that mental illness was caused by environmental factors.  For example, bad parenting, the theory went, was responsible for schizophrenia.

But LSD’s ability to induce psychotic symptoms in otherwise perfectly normal people gave rise to the concept that chemical changes in the brain were causing the psychotic symptoms characteristic of certain mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.  A paradigm shift in thinking about mental illness resulted, and we began to seek solutions to the terrible symptoms of mental illness in pharmacology.

So how did a drug with so much possibility end up on the short list of the most dangerous drugs in the world?

First synthesized in 1938, the drug was made illegal in the United States in October 1968 after it became synonymous with out-of-control counterculteralism of the 1960’s.  The last FDA approved human study with LSD, for use in dying cancer patients, ended in 1980. Even Switzerland stopped its use in 1993.

But today, we are reconsidering the advisability of this action.  Banning a promising drug because of social unrest associated with it seems unwise at best and foolish at worst. As it turns out, current research points to successful use of LSD and other psychotropic drugs to reduce the clinical symptoms of mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia.

In the mid-1990’s Franz Vollenwider’s research showed that LSD, combined with behavioral therapy, could alleviate the symptoms of various psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. With the ability to study the effects of the drug using new tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, scientists are now able to use the new technology to see which areas of the brain are specifically affected by the psychotropic drugs. With this new knowledge, they will be able to make inroads into new treatment options for mental illness, including the administration of LSD.

It’s time to dust off the medicine cabinet and take another look at LSD and other psychotropic drugs. This is 2010, not 1960. We can’t afford to hold possible cures to mental illness hostage to long-ago prejudices.

 

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