Sunday, 25 March 2012

The LSD Cure


According to a recent study by Krebs (a neuroscientist) and Johansen (a clinical psychologist), LSD may help treat alcoholism. This study was the first-ever quantitative and clinical meta-analysis of the efficacy of LSD in treating alcoholism. Krebs and Johansen performed thousands of random, double-blind trials comparing LSD to a placebo. Of those who were given LSD, 59% attested to lower levels of alcohol consumption compared to 38% of those who were given a placebo. Krebs explains that these results have been consistent, and that the positive lifestyle-changing effects of LSD lasted up to six months for some patients.

How a single dose of LSD can have such a profound effect remains somewhat of a mystery. LSD has a similar structure to serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure. However, LSD triggers quite different responses to the serotonin-receptor site and also acts at several other receptor sites.

Perhaps we have to zoom out from the microscopic level of neurotransmitters and synapses to understand how hallucinogens can have such a powerful effect on human behavior. Carhart-Harris, a psychopharmacologist at Imperial College London states that psychedelics work at both biological and psychological levels—as if the two, mind and body, can even be conceived of as separate! He suggests that psychedelics help addiction by making the brain function more chaotically for a period, “like shaking up a snow globe, weakening reinforced brain connections and dynamics.” Whether taken with a therapeutic intention or not, psychedelics surely have this power to shake things up, to project before one’s own eyes (and third-eye) in typically dramatic visions, those un-integrated shadow aspects of one’s own psyche which need attention. Their ability to show us how certain habits of thought and deed are affecting us on multiple levels, reveal that psychedelic therapy may really help addiction.

Image by yampyank on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing

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