You might not expect one of the most potent hallucinogens of all time to be useful in the treatment of addiction. But weirdly that's exactly what a new study shows.
A team of researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim has analysed data first gathered in the 1960s and 1970s to establish the drug's effects on addiction.
The data — based on results from 536 participants — shows that those taking LSD reported far lower levels of alcohol misuse. This actually chimes with speculation in the 1950s, when psychiatrists suggested that LSD could be an effective treatment for alcoholism.
Indeed, in the last decade there have been numerous trials using other drugs to treat addition, such as ayahuasca for drug and alcohol dependency, and psilocybin — the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms — to wean smokers from their cigarettes. Both have shown some successes.
It remains unclear how psychedelics actually achieve such effects, but it's likely they work on both a biological and psychological level. Speaking to Nature, Robin Carhart-Harris, a psychopharmacologist at Imperial College London, said:
"Psychedelics probably work in addiction by making the brain function more chaotically for a period — a bit like shaking up a snow globe — weakening reinforced brain connections and dynamics."
Whether LSD — or any other hallucinogen for that matter — is the most effective way to treat addiction is questionable. In fact, I'm happy to wager that it's certainly not the most effective method, given the wealth of psychological treatments that have been developed in recent decades. It might make kicking a habit a little more entertaining, though. [Nature]