What is the Therapeutic Use of LSD in Psychiatry?

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) has a long history of study in psychiatry, with research for it’s therapeutic use beginning in the 1950s. This research was halted when the drug was criminalized in 1971. However, in the past couple of decades, a revived interest in psychedelics has seen several contemporary studies investigating  LSD as a treatment for various psychiatric disorders. 1. 

Key Takeaways:

  • LSD has shown positive results in reducing symptoms of psychiatric disorders, particularly in alcoholism. 
  • LSD affects connectivity in the brain, and promotes neural flexibility. These biological mechanisms may aid people to  alter established patterns of thought.
  • Therapeutic LSD sessions are conducted under supervision in a controlled environment.
  • While there are still unknowns about the long-term effects and therapy frequency, LSD therapy shows promise in improving mental health.

The Effects of LSD Therapy

In the brain, LSD interacts with receptors that normally respond to the neurotransmitter serotonin,, in particular, the 5HT2A receptors. Serotonin plays an important role in mood regulation, memory and other cognitive processes. By mimicking serotonin, LSD produces a notable impact on these functions. . Animal research also finds LSD can promote neuroplasticity through its action at 5HT2A. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections and pathways, and is the basis for learning and memory. This may explain why LSD therapy has been effective in facilitating long-lasting changes in perception, cognition, and behavior.

In the context of mental health disorders, LSD therapy has shown promising results. Research suggests that a single dose of LSD, administered under supervision in a therapeutic setting, can lead to a reduction in symptoms of addiction, anxiety and depression. It may help individuals gain a new perspective on their experiences and emotions, thereby facilitating personal growth and self-reflection.

LSD Therapy BenefitsLSD Therapy Limitations
Potential reduction in anxiety and depression symptomsPromotes neuroplasticity and new neural connectionsFacilitates personal growth and self-reflectionUnknown long-term effectsOptimal frequency of therapy still being determinedRequires strict supervision and controlled setting

LSD Therapy for Alcoholism

Researchers have investigated LSD to treat alcoholism since the 1950s. Several treatment approaches have been utilized, from dosing patients whilst strapped to a hospital bed, to combining LSD and hypnosis. Today, the majority of LSD research employs a model of psychedelic-assisted therapy, involving the supervised administration of LSD in a comfortable environment, in which patients are encouraged to explore their thoughts, emotions and addictive patterns of behavior. These sessions are often , accompanied by several sessions of psychotherapy before and after, focused on helping people understand their negative patterns and change them accordingly.  

Several early psychedelic trials highlighted the long-lasting benefits of a single LSD dose on patients with alcoholism. A review of six trials found patients had significantly reduced drinking behaviors following LSD treatment compared to placebo, with clinically meaningful differences lasting up to twelve months. Moreover LSD therapy was found to be relatively safe, Though side effects were reported in five of these trials, none were long-lasting.     

There have been no further trials investigating LSD for alcoholism since the 1970s. However, in 2015, researchers Bogenschutz and Ross found psilocybin-assisted therapy, which has a similar mechanism to LSD, reduced heavy drinking for up to 32 weeks in those with alcohol use disorder. 

During LSD, users report  profound experiences characterized by altered perceptions and thought, and increased personal awareness. When combined with psychotherapy, this potential for introspection can aid alcoholism patients to  address underlying issues that may be at the root of their addiction. . 

Benefits of LSD Therapy for Alcoholism
Reduces alcohol consumption
Promotes self-reflection and introspection
Addresses underlying psychological issues
Offers a new perspective on addiction

LSD Therapy for Depression, Anxiety, and Drug Dependence

Brain scans show LSD increases functional connectivity – the patterns of neural communication between different areas of the brain. By increasing the chance for new neural connections,  LSD can aid a loosening of rigid thought patterns and shift in thought perspectives.. This mechanism  may be particularly beneficial for individuals with mental health disorders characterized by “stuck” negative thinking,  such as depression and anxiety. 

Highlighting this capacity, a recent study showed LSD therapy significantly reduced anxiety and depression scores, and improved quality of life in individuals with and without a terminal illness. .The lead study author Peter Gasser concluded that “The [LSD] experiences created led to a restructuring of the person’s emotional trust, situational understanding, habits and world view.”

Gasser also led another study investigating combined use of LSD with MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The results, published last year, found using both drugs as part of a group therapy model significantly improved clinical trauma-related symptoms. 

Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) demonstrated significant and lasting mood improvement following LSD-assisted therapy in another recent trial from the University of Basel’s Liechti lab.. Professor Matthias Lietchti, who founded the lab, announced his research group will continue advancing LSD therapy research in the study press release. 

Benefits of LSD Therapy for Depression and AnxietyStudies
Last improvements in depression scoresStudy on major depressive disorder 
Reduction in anxiety and depressionStudy on individuals with anxiety with and without  terminal illness

While the initial results are promising, further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of action and long-term effects of LSD therapy. Additionally, exploring the optimal frequency and dosage is essential.


While LSD therapy has shown promise in improving mental health, there are still unknowns that need to be addressed. The long-term effects of LSD therapy remain uncertain, and further research is needed to determine the optimal frequency of therapy sessions. Furthermore, LSD therapy must be administered under strict supervision and in a controlled setting to ensure safety and minimize potential risks.

Overall, the therapeutic use of LSD in psychiatry holds great potential in treating various psychiatric disorders. By understanding the effects of LSD on brain function and mental health, researchers can continue to explore the benefits and limitations of psychedelic therapy. With further investigation, LSD therapy may offer new possibilities in improving the well-being of individuals struggling with mental health challenges.


What is the therapeutic use of LSD in psychiatry?

The therapeutic use of LSD in psychiatry refers to the use of the drug in a controlled and supervised setting to treat psychiatric disorders. It has been studied since the 1950s and has shown promise in reducing symptoms of various conditions, including alcoholism, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

How does LSD therapy affect the brain and mental health?

LSD therapy affects the brain through many mechanisms. One of which is increasing functional connectivity , which helps new communication patterns form in the brain, allowing for a change in established patterns of thought. When combined with therapy, this effect has the potential to help overcome ingrained negative thoughts in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The drug is administered under supervision in a therapeutic setting to ensure a safe and controlled experience.

Can LSD therapy be used to treat alcoholism?

Preliminary studies have shown positive results in using LSD therapy to reduce alcohol consumption. A single dose of LSD has been found to have a lasting effect on alcoholism and has been considered an effective approach. However, further research is needed to fully understand the benefits and limitations of LSD therapy for alcoholism.

Is LSD therapy effective in treating depression, anxiety, and drug dependence?

There is growing evidence suggesting the potential use of LSD therapy in treating depression, anxiety, and drug dependence. Preliminary studies have shown positive effects in these areas, but more research is needed to determine the full extent of its effectiveness and to develop appropriate treatment protocols.

What are the potential benefits and limitations of LSD therapy?

LSD therapy has shown promise in improving mental health and reducing symptoms of various psychiatric disorders. However, there are still unknowns regarding the long-term effects and optimal frequency of therapy. Further research is necessary to fully understand the potential benefits and limitations of LSD therapy.

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