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Safety and Efficacy of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-Assisted Psychotherapy for Anxiety Associated With Life-threatening Diseases

Gasser, Peter MD*; Holstein, Dominique PhD; Michel, Yvonne PhD; Doblin, Rick PhD§; Yazar-Klosinski, Berra PhD§; Passie, Torsten MD, MA; Brenneisen, Rudolf PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: July 2014 - Volume 202 - Issue 7 - p 513–520
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000113
Original Articles

A double-blind, randomized, active placebo-controlled pilot study was conducted to examine safety and efficacy of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)-assisted psychotherapy in 12 patients with anxiety associated with life-threatening diseases. Treatment included drug-free psychotherapy sessions supplemented by two LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions 2 to 3 weeks apart. The participants received either 200 μg of LSD (n = 8) or 20 μg of LSD with an open-label crossover to 200 μg of LSD after the initial blinded treatment was unmasked (n = 4). At the 2-month follow-up, positive trends were found via the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) in reductions in trait anxiety (p = 0.033) with an effect size of 1.1, and state anxiety was significantly reduced (p = 0.021) with an effect size of 1.2, with no acute or chronic adverse effects persisting beyond 1 day after treatment or treatment-related serious adverse events. STAI reductions were sustained for 12 months. These results indicate that when administered safely in a methodologically rigorous medically supervised psychotherapeutic setting, LSD can reduce anxiety, suggesting that larger controlled studies are warranted.

*Medical Office for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Solothurn, Switzerland; †Department for Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland; ‡Statistical Consulting, Daniel Island, SC; §Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Santa Cruz, CA; ∥Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; and ¶Department of Clinical Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

Send reprint requests to Peter Gasser, MD, Medical Office for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Hauptbahnhofstrasse 5, 4500 Solothurn, Switzerland. E-mail:

Interim findings were presented at The Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century conference, April 15 to 18, 2010, San Jose, California, and the 20th IFP World Congress of Psychotherapy conference, June 16 to 19, 2010, in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Clinical Trial Registration: identifier: NCT00920387.

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© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins