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The powerful hallucinogenic drug LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) could be used to help alcoholics give up drinking, according to a retrospective analysis of studies undertaken in the 1960s.
The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, suggests that the use of LSD, coupled with relapse prevention treatments, could help drinkers ease off alcohol.
Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim examined earlier experiments conducted in the United States and Canada between 1966 and 1970.
An analysis of the original six trials showed that 59 percent of the 536 subjects involved in the study had reduced levels of alcohol misuse after taking the drug, compared to 38 percent who were given placebos.
Those who received a single dose of 210-800mg of LSD appeared to retain the benefits up to 12 months later. The research suggests that taking the drug could give alcoholics a fresh perspective on their drinking problem and take steps to quit.
The supervisor of one trial said: "It was rather common for patients to claim significant insights into their problems, to feel that they had been given a new lease on life, and to make a strong resolution to discontinue their drinking."
The original findings were dismissed because not enough subjects took part to draw any firm conclusions but the re-examination of the data by Teri Krebs and Pål-Ørjan Johansen, who were performing research fellowships at Harvard Medical School, suggests a conclusion could have been reached.
"Many patients claim that they get significant insights into their problems, that they get a new perspective on their problems and motivation to solve them," Johansen wrote.
"It also seems that some people are prepared to be more self-accepting and able to see negative consequences and happenings in their own lives.
"Given the evidence for a beneficial effect of LSD on alcoholism, it is puzzling why this treatment approach has been largely overlooked."