Can LSD cure depression? – Το LSD ενδέχεται να θεραπεύει την κατάθλιψη

LSD for depression

Controversial research suggests that LSD and other psychedelic drugs could   have vital medical uses.

Until recently, prescribing Ecstasy, mescaline or magic mushrooms has been a   guaranteed way for a psychiatrist to lose his research funding, his job or   even his liberty. But now, scientists are beginning to suspect that such   illegal drugs may be the key to treating a range of intractable illnesses,   from post-traumatic stress disorder to depression.

These chemicals – which include the psychedelic drugs psilocybin, derived from magic mushrooms, and LSD, as well as ecstasy – affect the way we think and   behave, as well as causing hallucinations and mystical experiences. Yet a   series of studies performed in Britain and the US is beginning to tease out   their potential benefits. One, into the effects of Ecstasy, is featured in   the controversial Channel 4 documentary, Drugs Live, tomorrow night.

“People become very emotionally tender on Ecstasy, which makes you more   responsive to psychotherapy,” explains Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, one of the   experts involved. In the televised study, either a dose of ecstasy or a   placebo was given to 26 volunteers, including the writer Lionel Shriver and   the former Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris. They were then put through a brain   scanner by scientists at Imperial College London to see precisely where   these drugs have an effect.

It was found that, in the volunteers given the proper drug, the area of their   brain involved in positive memories became more active, while another   processing negative memories was damped down. “We think this would make it   easier for patients to revisit a traumatic memory and overwrite or control   it,” says Carhart-Harris. Earlier studies have made surprising discoveries about what psilocybin, a class-A drug in Britain, was doing in the brain.   These in turn could lead to new treatments for depression and agonising   cluster headaches.

This may all sound radical, or even dangerous – yet half a century ago, research into the effects of psychedelic drugs was widespread and respectable. More than 1,000 papers were published looking at ways that   psychiatrists could help patients with hallucinogenic chemicals. But then   the walls descended, as a new anti-drug culture took hold, particularly in   the United States. In the 1970s, the Food and Drug Administration banned the   use of LSD and related chemicals. Since then, research in the field has been   effectively frozen, with recent years seeing a tentative thaw.

In both Britain and America, scientists can now get permission to use banned drugs in their research. But until very recently, few bothered, because funds were hard to obtain and such studies could damage a career. But that   attitude has been changing, with a growing lobby claiming that these drugs could be safely used in a clinical setting to bring great benefit to patients.

“These drugs don’t appear to produce dependence,” says Dr Stephen Ross,   director of the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse at Bellevue Hospital   in New York City. “Their ability to treat a range of addictive psychiatric   and existential disorders is remarkable and too interesting not to explore   further.”

In America, support has come from the Multidisciplinary Association for   Psychedelic Studies, which has sponsored research into the treatment of   post-traumatic stress disorder with Ecstasy, whose chemical name is MDMA.   Here in Britain, much of the drive has come from Amanda Feilding, who set up   the Beckley Foundation in Oxford to initiate and fund studies into the   effects of psychoactive drugs and other ways of changing consciousness, such   as meditation.

Feilding, who is the Countess of Wemyss and March, has long been a   controversial figure with some odd ideas; in her twenties she trepanned herself, drilling a hole in her own skull to “increase blood flow”. But since then, she has crossed the boundary into scientific respectability and   her dedication has earned her the respect of colleagues. “None of the work   in the UK would have occurred without the Beckley Foundation and   particularly Amanda as a collaborator and funder of the programme,” says Professor David Nutt, now a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London but better known as the former chairman of the government’s Advisory   Council on the Misuse of Drugs, who was fired for claiming that alcohol and   tobacco were more harmful than Ecstasy and cannabis.

The recent studies on Ecstasy and psilocybin were carried out under the   Beckley Foundation/Imperial College Psychopharmacological Research   Programme, with Prof Nutt as senior researcher in both of them. The   Foundation is also collaborating with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore   in a study using psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to treat cigarette   addiction – the first modern study to use a psychedelic to treat dependency.   The results from the pilot study show a 100 per cent success rate.

The Beckley/Imperial psilocybin study, reported in the Proceedings of the   National Academy of Sciences in January, was a major breakthrough for   Feilding, but the actual findings were surprising. “One of my long-held   theories about the brain has been that consciousness is directly linked to   the volume of blood in the brain capillaries,” she says, “and that drugs   which intensify mental experiences, like psilocybin, increase that volume.   However, the evidence shows a decrease in blood flow. More research should   clarify what’s happening. What’s good is that we’ve provided a new piece in   the consciousness jigsaw.”

This study found that for the drug’s users, blood flow dropped by 20 per cent   in the brain’s communications centres. “These are the places where all the   information from our senses is combined with our memories and expectations   about the world,” says Feilding. “The result is the familiar consistent and   coherent view of the world that we think of as normal. So it looks as though   what the hallucinogens are doing is weakening that top-down control of our   experience and allowing a freer, less constrained but also more chaotic   state of awareness to emerge. It may also be significant that the volunteers   who reported the most vivid and powerful experiences were also those who had   the greatest reduction in blood flow.”

The discovery that our normal world view is maintained by throttling back the   amount of information getting through to our consciousness would be a   vindication of the theory put forward 58 years ago by Aldous Huxley in The   Doors of Perception, an account of his personal experience of taking   mescaline, a similar drug that comes from the peyote cactus. Of more   immediate practical use, however, was the finding that one of the “hubs”    identified as being damped down by psilocybin – known as the “medial   prefrontal cortex” – is already known to be overactive in people with   depression. Now a clinical trial funded by the Medical Research Council will   see whether psilocybin can help severely depressed people.

Of course, substances such as mescaline and Ecstasy carry such cultural baggage that many think they will always be beyond the pale. Anti-drugs   campaigners have described the Channel 4 programme, with its celebrity  subjects, as “reckless and pointless”, claiming it will only glamorise drug use.

Yet the question of whether or not a drug should be legalised for uncontrolled public consumption is, say many scientist and campaigners, a quite different   question to whether doctors should be allowed to prescribe the same chemical   to treat their patients. It may be the case that one of the unwitting   casualties of the War on Drugs is a cohort of people currently suffering   intractable mental anguish, denied help simply because of the unfortunate   associations between a potential cure and the psychedelic counter-culture   that took root half a century ago.

Το «αμαρτωλό» LSD ενδέχεται να θεραπεύει την κατάθλιψη

LSD

Εδώ και περίπου 50 χρόνια ήταν ταμπού στον επιστημονικό κόσμο η πραγματοποίηση ερευνών πάνω στην «κακόφημη» ψυχεδελική (παραισθησιογόνο) ουσία LSD, η οποία έγινε διάσημη από την εποχή των χίππις, όμως είχε ξεκινήσει πολύ πριν από αυτούς ως ένα πιθανό φάρμακο για θεραπευτικούς σκοπούς στο πεδίο της ψυχιατρικής. Τώρα, αυτό το κομμένο νήμα επιστημονικής έρευνας ξανασυνδέεται, καθώς η πρώτη κλινική δοκιμή με LSD κρίθηκε θετική από θεραπευτική άποψη.
Η ελεγχόμενη πιλοτική δοκιμή, με επικεφαλής τον ελβετό ψυχίατρο Πέτερ Γκάσερ, έγινε σε μια μικρή ομάδα 12 ανδρών και γυναικών εθελοντών και τα σχετικά ευρήματα δημοσιεύτηκαν στο ιατρικό περιοδικό “Journal of Nervous and Medical Diseases”, σύμφωνα τους «Τάιμς της Νέας Υόρκης» και τη βρετανική «Ιντιπέντεντ».
Το πείραμα χορήγησης LSD -που έλαβε χώρα στον ήσυχο χώρο μιας ιδιωτικής κλινικής κοντά στη Βέρνη, παρουσία γιατρού- έγινε στο πλαίσιο συνεδριών ψυχοθεραπείας για την αντιμετώπιση της σοβαρής κατάθλιψης σε καρκινοπαθείς και άλλους ασθενείς τελικού σταδίου. Όσοι εθελοντές πήραν μεγάλες δόσεις LSD (200 μικρογραμμάρια), εμφάνισαν μια κατά 20% μείωση των συμπτωμάτων κατάθλιψης, χωρίς να παρουσιάσουν κάποιες σοβαρές παρενέργειες.

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Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
 

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