LSD could treat depression, claims researcher

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

Could psychoactive drugs such as LSD be an effective treatment for alcoholism and depression? One UK professor believes so, and he’s asking for your help in funding his research.

As reported Wednesday by The Guardian, Professor David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist and psychiatrist, and colleagues from Imperial College London claim that these substances could be used to reverse longstanding patterns of addictive behavior or negative thinking.

Not a nutt

Nutt, who specializes in the research of drugs that affect the brain, and his fellow scientists have obtained the first brain scans of people under the influence of LSD. While their research is in the early stages, a trial involving 20 patients is being called “promising” and may add new evidence suggesting that psychoactive drugs could effectively treat depression or addiction.

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However, during a recent event in London, the professor and former chief drug advisor to the government, said that patients are missing out on these potential benefits due to federal laws that limit research into recreational drugs. Such restrictions, he said, are nothing short of “the worst censorship in the history of science,” the UK-based media outlet added.

Having failed to secure the money needed to continue his work through conventional means, Nutt has taken to the Web, launching a page at the crowdfunding website in the hopes that he and his colleagues can secure £25,000 (nearly $38,000) for their research.

“These drugs offer the greatest opportunity we have in mental health. There’s little else on the horizon,” he told The Guardian. “We’ve banned research on psychedelic drugs and other drugs like cannabis for 50 years. Truly, in terms of the amount of wasted opportunity, it’s way greater than the banning of the telescope. This is a truly appalling level of censorship.”

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“There has been a resurgence of medical interest in LSD and psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, after several recent trials produced encouraging results for conditions ranging from depression in cancer patients to post-traumatic stress disorder,” the website added, citing a recent US study that showed LSD could treat anxiety in patients with life-threatening conditions.

Not just people having a good time

Likewise, in 2012, research showed that the active ingredient in ecstasy (MDMA) could be combined with psychotherapy to treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and an Arizona-based study from six years earlier found that psilocybin could relieve the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, Nutt claims that the UK government and other funding agencies remain unwilling to get involved in research into the clinical benefits of psychoactive drugs.

Ravi Das, a University College London neuroscientist who is currently studying the effects of ketamine, agreed. Das told The Guardian that the “potential benefits are definitely downplayed in face of these drugs being used recreationally. People view their use in a research setting as ‘people are just having a good time.’ ”

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However, a the Medical Research Council spokesperson countered those claims, stating that funding is allocated based on the quality of research. He said that the Nutt “currently receives over three quarters of a million pounds directly from the MRC for his psilocybin research,” and that the agency “spent over £860,000 on studies related to cannabis” last year alone.


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