We have to admit, this latest news story even caught us by surprise. For decades, the psychedelic hallucinogen LSD (also known as “acid”) has been grouped with harmful substances like ecstasy. But similar to the recent stance on marijuana, the public may be turning a corner on how this drug is perceived. In a June Newsweek article, a study was revealed that now claims that LSD could actually be a tool to help treat addiction and depression.
Taking data from Cell Reports, Newsweek writer Dana Dovey shared details on animal testing and LSD. Measuring brain cell activity after using the drug, scientists were able to uncover that more dendritic spines and synapses occurred after the hallucinogen was ingested. This, researchers claim, could lead to new breakthroughs in depression treatment.
“One of the hallmarks of depression is that the neurites in the prefrontal cortex—a key brain region that regulates emotion, mood, and anxiety—those neurites tend to shrivel up,” study author David E. Olson told the site. “These brain changes also appear in cases of anxiety, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Olson also pointed out that this type of behavior actually differs to the reactions that come from anti-depressants like Zoloft and Prozac. Unlike those pills, which influence brain chemicals, LSD actually affects brain plasticity. The common belief is that drugs that behave this way promote the growth of new neural connections. Dovey then took the conversation one step further, illustrating how this type of cranial behavior could be successfully applied to addiction treatment as well.
The big caveat is that acid itself is not the designated miracle cure. Dr. Olson emphasized that if they continue to see these types of positive results, they would need to recreate new less potent prescription forms of the drug. He left the author with a stern warning about LSD and it potential risks, such as drastic mood changes and paranoia. These tests were only conducted on mice and still have a ways to go.
Nevertheless, both Dovey and Olson believe these are steps in the right direction.
“We need to fully understand the signaling pathways that lead to neural plasticity,” Olson concluded. “Then we might be able to target critical nodes along those pathways with drugs that are safer than ketamine or psychedelics.”
We agree that this still a ways off from becoming legitimate, but the concept is intriguing and any new approach to combating addiction is certainly worth pursuing.