LSD for the NHS?

Science of the Mind — POSTED BY Amanda Feilding on February 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm

This recent article from The Financial Times reports on the scientific progress the Beckley Foundation has been making in the last few years.

A British charity is stepping up efforts to rehabilitate LSD, one of the world’s best-known “recreational” drugs, for medicinal use.

The Beckley Foundation, which numbers Professor Colin Blakemore, former head of the Medical Research Council, among its scientific advisers, is helping fund and lobby for a series of clinical trials to study the effects of lysergic acid diethylamide on the human brain.

The foundation has helped co-ordinate a network of researchers and supported the recent launch of one Swiss and two US studies, as well as prepare for a clinical trial in Germany and hold discussions about research within Britain.

The action follows years of suspicion by governments towards LSD since its original role in psychotherapy following the second world war was usurped by the counterculture of the 1960s, triggering bans in the US in 1968 and around the world after the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

Amanda Feilding, who created the Beckley Foundation to promote psychedelic research, said: “We want to open up these incredibly valuable compounds that have been used throughout history. We know LSD is non-toxic and non-addictive. The only way to overcome the taboo is by giving scientific explanations of how to use them beneficially.”

Her efforts to restart research on LSD’s medical applications reflect a long-standing personal interest in the uses of the drug as well as a pledge she made on his death-bed to Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who first synthesised LSD in 1938 and died just two years ago, aged 102.

Sandoz, Mr Hofmann’s long-standing employer, sold LSD for psychotherapy from the late 1940s, but after its patent expired in the 1960s, the drug became more widely associated with figures such as Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary. Swiss therapists were among the last to stop using it for research more than a decade ago.

However, recent efforts have resumed to study its effect on the brain, with specific applications including psychotherapy and treatment of addiction, pain, “cluster headaches” and potentially in degenerative diseases. While regulators have again begun to allow research on LSD, permission has been held up by continued suspicion.

Ms Feilding said her work had included identifying licensed manufacturers of the drug, and negotiating with the US authorities for strict control measures including transport in a locked safe, accompanied by police guards.

The Beckley Foundation’s scientific advisers also include Prof David Nutt, who chaired the government’s advisory committee on the misuse of drugs until he was sacked last year by Alan Johnson, the home secretary, after criticising the official decision not to downgrade its assessment of the dangers of cannabis.

By Andrew Jack in London
Published: February 12 2010

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    1 Comment

  • alchemistoxford says:

    How very encouraging to read this story here after its publication in the Financial Times! Amanda Feilding is dead right: after successful therapeutic applications in psychiatry, LSD was demonized to illuminate the generation gap of the 1960s – and through its acquiescence, the scientific community has been complicit in the political hysteria. Long used beneficially in psychotherapy prior to its political demonization, LSD was praised by Aldous Huxley, Cary Grant and scores of intellectuals, scientists and artists. Let’s get on with the meticulous scientific elaboration of LSD therapy that is now long overdue.

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