A group of patients who tripped on acid in the first controlled LSD trial in 40 years reported that the drug almost uniformly reduced their anxiety levels.
The trial was conducted in Switzerland with a group of 12 cancer patients. The patients would turn on, tune in, and drop out while Dr. Peter Gasser talked them through their experiences.
The drug’s effects would last up to 10 hours, after which the patient would sleep on a couch in the office, attended at all times by the therapist or an assistant. “I told them that each session would be right here, in a safe environment, and I am part of it,’” Dr. Gasser said. “I said, ‘I can’t guarantee you won’t have intense distress, but I can tell you that if you do, it will pass.’ “
“I had what you would call a mystical experience, I guess, lasting for some time, and the major part was pure distress at all these memories I had successfully forgotten for decades,” one participant told the Times. “These painful feelings, regrets, this fear of death. I remember feeling very cold for a long time. I was shivering, even though I was sweating. It was a mental coldness, I think, a memory of neglect.”
But despite the intense emotions, the eight participants who were given full LSD doses saw a 20 percent improvement on standard measures of anxiety, which they maintained in the year since their trips.
More important, subjects who got the full dose experienced measurable and lasting improvements in their “state” and “trait” anxiety scores, which reflect anxiety levels that are buffeted by changing circumstances (state) and those that are stable aspects of personality (trait). Eight weeks after the intervention, those who got full doses of LSD had declines in both state and trait anxiety. By contrast, trait anxiety increased for all four of those who got the placebo dose, and state anxiety rose in two of the four.
According to the study’s authors, the only negative effects were temporary bad trips.