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A number of studies examining the use of LSD to treat a variety of disorders, including alcoholism, were conducted in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
In a new analysis, Norwegian researchers examined six studies of LSD and alcoholism that were conducted in the United States and Canada between 1966 and 1970.
The analysis of data from the 536 patients in the studies showed that a single dose of LSD helped heavy alcoholics quit and reduced their risk of resuming drinking, according to the meta-analysis appearing online March 8 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Patients who received a full dose of the controversial drug did the best. On average, 59 percent of those patients showed a clear improvement, compared with 38 percent of patients in other groups, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology researchers said.
The beneficial effect of LSD was greatest during the first few months of treatment, but the effect gradually decreased over time.
"We do not yet fully know why LSD works this way," researchers Teri Krebs and Pal-Orjan Johansen said in a university news release. "But we know that the substance is nontoxic and that it is not addictive. We also know that it has a striking effect on the imagination, perception and memories."
LSD interacts with a specific type of serotonin receptor in the brain.
"LSD may stimulate the formation of new connections and patterns, and generally seems to open an individual to an awareness of new perspectives and opportunities for action," the researchers speculated.
Despite some promising studies, it was generally concluded decades ago that LSD had no demonstrated medical use. While nonmedical use of the psychedelic drug is illegal, LSD is still permitted as an experimental medical treatment.
"There has long been a need for better treatments for addiction. We think it is time to look at the use of psychedelics in treating various conditions," the researchers said.
-- Robert Preidt
Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
SOURCE: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, news release, March 8, 2012