Fear of LSD Addiction Stopping LSD Being Used for Treating Depression?

LSD, or acid as it is also known as, is a hallucinogenic drug that was hugely popular in the 1960s until it was made illegal. During this time, it was enormously popular with musicians and artists; as a result, it became the drug of choice for fun-loving partygoers. However, worried about LSD addiction and the harmful effects the drug could have on both physical and mental health, the UK government of the time had made moves to ban the drug by 1966.

Obstacle to Research

Scientists had also been using LSD and were conducting research into the effect of the drug on those with mental health issues. Nevertheless, when the drug was banned, scientific studies and research became much more difficult; difficult, but not impossible.

Some scientists have continued their research into the possibility of using the main hallucinogenic ingredient in LSD, psilocybin, to treat conditions such as chronic depression.


Chronic depression can be a debilitating condition and is one that affects many people the world over. Around twenty per cent of patients with depression do not respond to any types of treatment, and there is a high relapse rate for those who do respond. Current antidepressants work for some individuals, but they tend to come with some side effects, ranging from weight gain to anxiety to sexual problems.

Those who treat depression in patients are often critical of the fact that there have been no new treatments since the 1980s. Nonetheless, the news that there may be a treatment available that works for a larger number of patients is more than welcome. As you may expect, there is a slight catch; this effective treatment is actually illegal to possess in the UK.

Reclassifying Psychedelics

Many researchers and scientists believe that psychedelics should be reclassified, but this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. The Government remains firm in its stance that psychedelic drugs should remain illegal drugs due to the harm they can cause to health as well as of the risk they pose to the development of LSD addiction in some people.

Studies into the effectiveness of LSD in treating depression have been very small, and the results are therefore unlikely to convince the Government to look at reclassification of the drug for the moment. Studies began back in the 1950s and 1960s into the use of psychedelics to treat a variety of conditions such as depression, anxiety, and addiction. These studies have recently been picked back up again, and there are positive signs that psilocybin could be used as a very effective antidepressant.

New Research

The latest study was conducted on twelve patients, who were each given a dose of psilocybin, followed by another a week later. After another week, eight of the twelve patients did not have any symptoms of depression. Three months later, five of those patients remained depression-free.

Another study was published in February 2016 which described seventeen patients that were given a single dose of the plant-based infusion ayahuasca. This hallucinogenic brew is used as a medicinal remedy by the indigenous people of Peru and Columbia. Patients were assessed before taking the dose and then every week for three weeks after that. They completed questionnaires regarding their symptoms of depression and also received brain scans when they took the brew. These patients recorded significant improvements in their symptoms just eighty minutes after taking the drug, and these lasted for the full three weeks at least. However, half of the participants suffered vomiting after taking the drug.

LSD Addiction

Authorities in the UK believe that drugs that can have a detrimental effect on those who take them should be illegal, and so LSD is included in this list. Nevertheless, a number of experts believe that there is no evidence that LSD addiction is a cause for concern. In fact, Professor David Nutt, who was a former drugs advisor to the Government, believes that psychedelics should be re-classified. He said, “Psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope has been for biology and medicine, or the telescope is for astronomy.”

Nonetheless, it is likely that until large clinical trials produce evidence that psilocybin and ayahuasca are effective in the treatment of conditions such as depression and addiction, the Government will not consider any changes to current laws.

Recreational Use

In addition, even if LSD is reclassified, it is unlikely that it will be made legal for recreational use. The drug can cause pleasant hallucinations, but it can also leave people feeling scared and agitated if they have a bad ‘trip’. Some users will enjoy the experience while others may feel panicked and anxious with flashbacks that continue for some time afterwards. Some individuals have even reported experiencing flashbacks years later.


  1. https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2016/may/17/why-psychedelics-could-be-a-new-class-of-antidepressant-psilocybin
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