New LSD research shows promise of pain relief without a psychedelic trip

The controlled clinical experiment constitutes the first study in a long time to revisit the potential of LSD as an analgesic

LSD stands for lysergic acid diethylamide, a potent hallucinogenic drug. Zerbor/Getty Images


New LSD research shows the potential of the drug to ease pain.

The study provides evidence that a low dose produces an analgesic effect.

What makes it even more significant, though, is that the relief comes without a psychedelic experience.

The investigators behind the recently published research on LSD noted that their findings might lead to a “novel pharmacological therapy”.

“The present clinical study is the first to revisit the potential of LSD as an analgesic, and at dose levels which are not expected to produce profound mind-altering effects,” the paper stated.

Johannes G. Ramaekers of the department of neuropsychology and psychopharmacology at Maastricht University principally wrote the report.

Nadia Hutten, Natasha L. Mason, Patrick Dolder, Eef L. Theunissen, Friederike Holze, Matthias E. Liechti, Amanda Feilding, and Kim PC Kuypers contributed to the paper.

Their report carries the title “A low dose of lysergic acid diethylamide decreases pain perception in healthy volunteers.”

The Journal of Psychopharmacology published the paper discussing the results of the research on LSD on Tuesday (August 25).

LSD stands for lysergic acid diethylamide, a potent hallucinogenic drug. Health Canada explains that the substance is made from lysergic acid found in a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.

LSD goes by different names on the street, like acid.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act prohibits the sale, possession, and production of LSD. However, the government can authorize these activities for medical, scientific, or industrial purposes.

Street dealers often sell it in small paper squares soaked with the chemical.

Research on LSD tests low doses

Ramaekers and his collaborators employed 24 healthy individuals in their LSD research. The participants took single oral doses of five, 10, and 20 µg LSD hydrate, and placebo on four separate test days.

In terms of measurement, µg means a millionth of a gram.

The researchers then instructed the participants to immerse themselves in a water tank filled with water cooled to 3°C. Called the Cold Pressor Test or CPT, the experiment induces a painful sensation.

“The current data consistently indicated that LSD 20 µg significantly reduced pain perception as compared with placebo, whereas lower doses of LSD did not,” the study found.

Furthermore, results indicated that a dose of 20 µg “significantly increased pain tolerance (i.e. immersion time)” by about 20 percent.

Moreover, the research on LSD showed that the same dose decreased the “subjective levels of experienced painfulness and unpleasantness”.

Investigators noted that LSD 20 µg induced “medium to large” changes in pain tolerance and subjective pain perception.

Also, they noted that the effect is “comparable in magnitude” to those observed in CPT tests using 20 milligrams of oxycodone, and 10-20 milligrams of morphine.

“The study revealed the minimal dose at which analgesic activity of LSD is effective,” the paper stated.

LSD research offers good prospects

The authors noted that recent studies reported that doses up to 21 µg hydrate had a mild or undetectable effect on “cognitive function, mood, perception, and state of consciousness”.

In conclusion, they stated that this suggests that LSD 20 µg produces a “very mild” cognitive interference.

Moreover, this means that they would not expect the dose to interfere with normal day-to-day operations.

On balance, the results of the LSD research indicating that a low dose cannot produce a psychedelic trip offer promising prospects. As the study noted, in fact, this would “increase the acceptability of a psychedelic drug in the management of pain”.

“The present data warrant further research into the analgesic effects of low doses of LSD in patient populations,” the authors noted.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter at @carlitopablo

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