For decades, scientific exploration into the realm of psychedelic drugs has been strictly forbidden by the US government. However, recently, as a result of constant pressure from civil rights groups, scientists are finally getting the opportunity to see what these drugs are all about. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) has been a primary focus of recent research, and study after study has shown that this substance has many beneficial uses.
While many drug overdoses are exceedingly dangerous and life threatening, there has never been a recorded death as a result of LSD consumption. This does not mean people won’t walk off bridges or buildings and die while on the drug. It only means that the drug itself is relatively safe. What’s more, when people do overdose on LSD, according to a recent study, it can be bizarrely beneficial.
This month, a composition of previous LSD overdose experiences co-authored by Mark Haden, the executive director of MAPS, was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The findings were nothing short of mind blowing. Researchers looked at three cases of massive overdoses of LSD and found some amazing results.
The first case report documents significant improvements in mood symptoms, including reductions in mania with psychotic features, following an accidental lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) overdose, changes that have been sustained for almost 20 years. The second case documents how an accidental overdose of LSD early in the first trimester of pregnancy did not negatively affect the course of the pregnancy or have any obvious teratogenic or other negative developmental effects on the child. The third report indicates that intranasal ingestion of 550 times the normal recreational dosage of LSD was not fatal and had positive effects on pain levels and subsequent morphine withdrawal.
“No clinical trial research could be done with dosages this high and there are no publications exploring the positive outcomes of very large dosages of LSD,” the authors said. “To understand the effects of extremely high dosages of psychedelics such as LSD, an examination of overdoses in naturalistic settings is required.”
The first case involves a 15-year-old girl with bipolar disorder. She’d been diagnosed with depression and hallucinations since she was 12 which had landed her in the hospital multiple times, including once when she attacked her own mother.
The 15-year-old, known as AV accidentally overdosed along with 20 other people at a summer solstice party in Canada. The dealer made a calculation error with a decimal placement and everyone who dosed actually took 10 times the normal dose, or 1,000 micrograms.
LSD is so strong that it is not measured in grams like cocaine and heroin but in micrograms — as in one millionth of a gram. The average dose of LSD is around 100 micrograms.
Party goers said AV had a seizure after behaving erratically for nearly 7 hours and then fell to the ground in a fetal position with her fists and arms clenched. An ambulance was called but by the time it arrived, AV had come to and was alert and oriented. When her father came to get her in the hospital the next morning, AV told him that “it’s over.” He thought she was talking about the trip and agreed. But she was not talking about the trip. She was talking about her mental illness.
AV clarified and told her father that she meant her bipolar illness was cured and she felt able to experience life with a “normal brain.” Doctors followed her for years and confirmed that her illness had indeed been cured.
In the second and most amazing case, a 49-year-old woman, known as CB, had contracted Lyme disease in her 20s which damaged her lower body leaving her in excruciating pain and dependent on opioids. In September of 2015, CB mistook powdered LSD for cocaine and snorted a whopping 550 doses of LSD — enough to have an entire night club tripping balls. CB’s trip would last for 34 hours.
When the drug finally wore off, CB’s pain that she’d lived with for decades was gone. It had completely disappeared as well as her addiction to opioids.
In the third case detailed in the paper, a 26-year-old woman, referred to as NM, at the same party in Canada that AV overdosed at, drank half a glass of the LSD-dosed water and subsequently found out she was pregnant. However, the authors said the overdose of LSD “did not negatively affect the course of NM’s pregnancy.” Nor did it have any other obvious negative developmental effects on her son, who is now 18.
What these cases and others like them illustrate is that LSD is incredibly safe. Though no one has ever died from it, the authors estimate that around 14,000 micrograms — enough to put an entire small town into space — would be the fatal dose.
“It’s a remarkably safe product. It’s unusual,” Haden said. “Albert Hofmann, [the first scientist to synthesize LSD in 1938], said it was one of the least toxic drugs on the planet and that kind of is consistent with David Nutt’s toxicity data. That’s just another reason why it shouldn’t be criminalized — it’s remarkably non-toxic.”
This recent report serves to back up other studies in the field of LSD which have shown similar results using regular doses.
As TFTP reported, a study conducted by a team of researchers from The University of North Carolina, Stanford University and the University of California has shown that LSD could be used to treat schizophrenia and depression.
The researchers used a process known as crystallography, in which atomic and molecular structure of certain interactions are studied. Specifically, the researchers were able to discover how LSD molecules interact with the serotonin receptors in our brain.
Professor Bryan Roth, one of the lead researchers on the team described how the process was used.
“There are different levels of understanding for how drugs like LSD work. The most fundamental level is to find out how the drug binds to a receptor on a cell. The only way to do that is to solve the structure. And to do that, you need X-ray crystallography, the gold standard,” Roth said.
“Once LSD gets in the receptor, a lid comes over the LSD, so it’s basically trapped in the receptor and can’t get out. LSD takes a really long time to get on the receptor, and then once it gets on, it doesn’t get off,” he added.
Roth specializes in schizophrenia research and was inspired to start this study after noticing that patients who he dealt with had reported their first schizophrenic break while taking acid.
“They were never the same again. Although this is rare, it has been reported. People also report flashbacks and LSD is an extremely potent drug. So for those reasons, along with its potential as part of therapeutic treatment, LSD is scientifically interesting,” Roth said.
Professor Ron Dror, another researcher, explained how he used computer imaging to find out how the drug interacts with the brain.
“There is a headache drug that binds to the same receptor as LSD. The two drugs bind in the same receptor pocket, but the shape of that binding pocket is different when one drug or the other is bound. We used computer simulations to help explain why the two drugs favor different binding pocket shapes,” Dr. Dror said.
“It has long been observed that LSD trips are long. The simulations helped explain why the receptor holds onto LSD for so long despite the fact that they have such a dynamic connection,” he added.
The researchers hope to develop a drug that could interact with serotonin receptors the same way, which could revolutionize treatment for people with depression and schizophrenia.
Another recent study from the University of Cardiff showed that LSD actually unlocks portions of the brain that are not usually used.
This study follows several others which have also found enormous therapeutic benefits possible with psychedelics. However, the persistent negative stigma surrounding even cannabis makes changes to drug policy for psychedelics — regardless of how many people could be helped — doubtful at best.