LSD may help those diagnosed with a life-threatening disease cope with the pain and anxiety of facing death. Further study is warranted due to the urgent need of more effective therapies for those facing painful, life-ending illnesses and the promising results of a historic new study.

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, a hallucinogenic drug commonly called LSD or simply acid, was synthesized in 1938. The drug was part of the counter-culture of the 1960s and memorialized by the Beatles in their music. Dr. Timothy Leary, a psychologist at Harvard University, was an early pioneer in LSD research who believed that the drug could help people with a variety of issues. His experiments, along with his reportedly erratic behavior, led to his eventual dismissal from Harvard.  Many users claimed they felt that LSD gave them a mind altering religious experience. This “experience” is what doctors are now considering.

The research is a long time coming.

All research with LSD-assisted psychotherapy in the 1950s and the 1960s came to a halt by the early 1970s.

However, LSD therapy does seem to have merit, and so it was taken up again. In this study, twelve individuals participated in the first approved research on LSD in over 40 years.  The safety and effectiveness of LSD as a tool along with psychotherapy in patients experiencing anxiety after a serious illness diagnosis was the focus.

LSD was given in a psychotherapeutic context to facilitate a deep psychedelic state, allowing the participant to encounter his/her own inner realities during an emotionally intensified dream-like “journey”.

Detailed preparation of patients and careful supervision in a supported environment resulted in mild and limited side effects. There were no “bad trips” or “flashbacks” and daily anxiety was felt to be noticeably reduced by all participants according to a twelve-month follow-up. It is interesting to note that eleven of the twelve people had little or no prior knowledge of LSD.

Future studies should focus on the quality of life and psychological well-being of the individual. The help that LSD may give to dealing with and easing pain in end-of-life circumstances is worth continued investigation. This historic study offers new hope for much needed pain therapy.