Wednesday, June 13, 2012

LSD as a Treatment for Alcoholism

I am a huge fan of the Joe Rogan Podcast. However, after regurgitating something I heard from the show over dinner with other international students, I decided to do some fact checking. In an episode Rogan mentions an LSD study where 90% of the subjects had no desire to drink alcohol after being administed the drug. This is incorrect; however considering Rogan releases two to three episodes of his show a week, often lasting up to three hours in length, mistakes are going to happen.

The study, which was conducted by Teri Krebs at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, found that 59% of the subjects reported that they used less alcohol after being administered 50 mcg of LSD. More importantly, 38% reported using less alcohol after receiving a placebo! Even if it is expected, I guess I am excited to see actual placebo results from a recreational drug. This is sure to make a great party trick!

Nevertheless, there were no statistically significant long term results (defined as follow-ups after six months). On top of that, there are perceived problem with running a study like this. For example, results simply being reported can be misleading as the subjects could simply lie. The sample size, which is barely over 500 participants is a little small. The study also notes that while research with LSD has been done before, the few studies that have been done almost all use different dosage amount (with the median dose being 500 mcg). Almost all of the studies also report that a small portion of the subjects had an "adverse reaction" to the LSD.

On the other hand, the short term results are still impressive, and the authors note that a single dose of LSD "compares well" with other medications given to alcoholics (naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram), if LSD can stop patients from relapsing into alcohol dependency then more research need to be done. For example, instead of daily doses of the aforementioned drugs, what if a patient only needed to receive a dose of medication every three months instead? The article also notes that LSD had been used before in conjunction with psychosocial intervention by "eliciting insights into behavioural patterns and genersating motivation to build a meaningful sober lifestyle".

The most important thing to take away from this study are two quotes given in the discussion section from previous psychedlic studies:
"It was rather common for patients to claim significant insights into their problems, to feel that they had been given a new lease on life, and to make a strong resolution to discontinue their drinking."
"It was not unusual for patients following their  LSD experience to become more self accepting, to show greater openness and accessibility, and to adopt a more positive, optimistic view of their capacities to face future problems."
This suggests to me that there are much more, and possibly greater, clinical (and non-clinical) uses for LSD outside of alcoholism. 

Krebs, Teri S., and Pål Ø Johansen. "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) for Alcoholism: Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials." Journal of Psychopharmacology (n.d.): n. pag. Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) for Alcoholism: Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. 8 Mar. 2012. Web. 13 June 2012.

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