How Does LSD Induce Short-Term Psychosis but Long-Term Optimism? https://t.co/GQ7j7iXelv
The LSD story goes back to Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist who first synthesised the compound in 1938. Hofmann accidentally discovered its hallucinogenic effects after ingesting 250 μg (a very large dose!) before his evening commute home. Being the good scientist that he was, he recorded a detailed account of his experience in his notebook. His initial, paranoia-filled reaction was followed the next day by a blissful experience, in which ‘everything glistened, and sparkled in a fresh light’.
It was this final, uplifting insight that the researchers at Imperial set out to re-explore in rigorous fashion, starting with 20 participants recruited by word-of-mouth. These subjects were all over the age of 21, had no history of psychiatric illness, and reported at least one previous experience with a hallucinogen like magic mushrooms or LSD – the last requirement implemented to minimise adverse responses to the drug. Each subject visited the testing centre twice: once to receive LSD (75 μg lower than the dose taken by recreational users) and once to receive a placebo, though the order in which these individuals received the LSD was random.
Much like Hofmann himself, test subjects reported feeling the effect of the LSD as quickly as ten minutes after the infusion, with the experience lasting for nearly eight hours in all. Several hours into the dosing, they were asked to answer a series of questions regarding their psychological wellbeing. Participants remained in the research centre for the remainder of the day with a psychiatrist present until they were functioning normally. In order to determine longer-term effects, they filled out the same questionnaires two weeks later.
Shortly after taking the drug, participants who received LSD reported an increase in psychosis-like symptoms, including visual hallucinations, spiritual experiences and paranoia. It was an outcome the researchers had expected. But interestingly, those given LSD were more likely to feel positive, and even ‘blissful’ emotions, as opposed to the negative and ‘anxious’ feelings sometimes associated with psychedelic drugs. What was even more striking was that two weeks after taking LSD, these individuals reported increased optimism and openness, making them more creative and curious, as compared with those who received the placebo.