It seems psychedelic drugs like LSD, cannabis and Ecstasy just might really have some medicinal purposes after all. Scientists are looking to these drugs to help sufferers of anorexia nervosa, cluster headaches and chronic anxiety attacks.
One 35-year-old British University lecturer says she relies on biannual doses of LSD to control her drinking problem. She credits LSD with increased self-confidence as well as the ability to stay smoke-free and sober.
Too good to be true?
Critics argue users are merely swapping one drug for another and chalk up the "cure" as nothing more than being too high to feel pain. "As a former drug user, it sounds like an excuse to get high," says former addict Leslie Durkin (whose name has been changed).
But distinguished academics and widely respected institutions are giving drugs like LSD a closer look.
Harvard medical school psychiatrist and researcher Dr. John Halpern discovered that nearly all of the 53 people with cluster headaches who took LSD, or psilocybin, the active compound in those trippy little mushrooms, experienced relief of their symptoms. Now Halpern is researching whether 2-Bromo-LSD, a non-psychedelic version, will produce the same pain-stopping results.
The international appeal
LSD is garnering attention as having medicinal purposes in international arenas, too. Scientists across the pond are exploring the benefits of LSD -- a phrase that warms the hearts of most hippies. And not to be outdone, Swiss researchers are using the drug in combination with psychotherapy to treat terminal patients experiencing end-of-life anxiety. "If you handle LSD with care, it isn't any more dangerous than other therapies," said Dr. Peter Glasser, the psychiatrist leading the Swiss trial.
LSD's purported benefits aren't a new concept. In the 1950s and 1960s, researchers explored possible uses of psychedelics--in some cases using them to treat anxiety, depression, and yes, ironically, addiction. But the mainstream backlash to the hallucinogen put a stop to the research in the more conservative 1970s.
In the U.S., LSD is Schedule 1, according to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. That makes it illegal to produce, possess or purchase it without a DEA license.
Regardless of its legal status, psychedelics are offering many hope. "I've had cluster headaches for over 10 years. If my doctor prescribed it, I'd certainly be willing to try LSD," says Marina Baldwin, an advocate of legalizing medicinal use of recreational drugs.
Even if LSD and other recreational drugs aren't legalized, scientists are hopeful that what they learn about how LSD works will lead to the development of similar, legal drug therapies.
If your doctor suggested it, would you be willing to try LSD to treat a chronic condition? Do you think certain psychedelics should be legalized?