By Vidhya Pathy, Associate Editor
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD, is a psychedelic drug made from a fungus that infects rye. When ingested in doses of 100 to 200 micrograms, LSD will cause the user to “trip,” or experience a major shift in perception of time and space or visual hallucinations. Interestingly, LSD is commonly reported to enhance feelings of connectedness and empathy.
LSD’s psychedelic qualities were discovered accidentally by a scientist named Albert Hofmann in 1943 when he ingested some from his own experiment. By the 1960s, LSD was being used recreationally by many people; it is estimated that 20.2 million Americans used the drug at least once between 1960 and 1969. A majority of users were seen as hippies, or politically far-left and largely anti-war. Oftentimes, the chaos caused by left-wing protests was attributed to LSD. In an effort to quell the movement, Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. Lysergic Acid Diethylamide was categorized as a Schedule I drug, the most harmful group. As a result, many experiments with LSD, including its use in alleviating anxiety in deathbed patients, were thrown out.
Forty years later, many of these experiments are being revived. In 2016, a study in London proved that LSD has the potential to change people’s ingrained thought patterns; small doses of the drug could help those suffering with depression and/or anxiety. Dr. Katrin Preller at the University of Zurich wrote, “If a [doctor has] a depressed patient ruminating about negative thoughts, LSD might facilitate a process where [they] attribute meaning to other things.” Furthermore, epidemiological studies conducted in the past few years have correlated lower suicide rates among people with mental illnesses who use LSD. Even with all the benefits, there are still many effects of LSD that must be studied, especially regarding long term use; after all, users who have latent psychological disorders may end up exacerbating their own condition with the use of LSD. Unfortunately, it will be impossible for the wider medical community to accept LSD unless the government allows for a larger testing pool and gives scientists more discretion.
The use of LSD to treat mental disorders brings up highly politicized questions. Can the people of the United States and the world at large overcome the stigma against a drug that never should have been stigmatized? Could LSD ever be legalized, and, if so, would that action increase use?