The article Treatment of Alcoholism Using Psychedelic Drugs, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, is a well documented record of the work done treating alcoholism with LSD. The dissension among a number of groups and different outcomes are described. The differences of opinion and results are based largely on the fact that many conducting research with LSD are not aware of the nature of its action, and appropriate methods of use. As discussed elsewhere on this Website, the principal differences arise from the fact that many investigators do not accept the transpersonal nature of the human being, which prevents them from understanding the true action of psychedelics and their potential applications. Dr. Hoffer's comments below shed further light on this situation.
Comments on the article Treatment of Alcoholism Using Psychedelic Drugs
Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Volume 30, No. 4, October -December 1998
By Abram Hoffer M.D, Ph.D, FRCP
I think this is a good review of the literature but, in common with so many other scientists, the author fails to grasp a very important point. This is that psychedelic therapy is a therapeutic experience, not drug, even though it is induced by drugs. But it is also induced by many other means and may even come spontaneously with no known cause. Therefore when one tests the efficacy of psychedelic therapy one is not testing the efficacy of a drug. The usual rules for testing drugs no longer apply. It is the experience which is therapeutic, and LSD is merely a device for creating that experience. Other factors may be equally important such as the time of day, the setting, the support people who are there, and the objective of taking the experience. One could equally use psilocybin, or mescaline, or harmine or other compounds. LSD happens to have the right time sequence of activity so it is easier to work into a working day, compared with mescaline which lasts too long and other drugs which do not last long enough.
The critics of psychedelic therapy have not taken this into account. Thus the Toronto studies studied the drug. They made no attempt whatever to induce a psychedelic experience. I saw at least two of the patients many years after they had been treated in Toronto and they told me that it was the most horrible experience they had ever had. It was in fact a true psychotomimetic experience and probably reproduced delirium tremens more than anything else. Not surprisingly their patients did not do well. They gave them 800 micrograms which is too heavy, gave them a barbiturate in advance to prevent convulsions, tied them to the bed so that they could not run away, and had sitting with them a psychologist who wrote notes all the time and did not interact with the patients. As you know, in Saskatchewan we tried in every way possible to induce a true psychedelic experience and often succeeded. And we did see some remarkable recoveries. Within the last ten years I have seen several who were treated in Saskatchewan and they are still doing well.
Well then, how does one test the experience in a double blind manner? This method in itself has never been validated. It is method derived from agriculture using plants and animals, and according to Sir L. Hogben, who wrote a book about it, the methods that work there are not appropriate for human studies. The probability theorems do not apply and the mathematical activity is like studying monkeys in a cage and deducing from that what they would be like in the wild. Finally, it is not ehtical. One starts with a lie and this pervades the whole experiment. In Toronto they did not tell them why they were giving them the LSD and emphasized only that it was a drug.
Finally , how can you placebo the experience? If the placebo is distinguishable from the experience then it is not a placebo. Placebo pills have to be identical with the real medication and not distinguishable from them. In addition the patients must not be able to tell by their own subjective experience that they are taking something different. This is impossible with the psychedelic experience.
In my opinion psychedelic scientists will simply have to admit that double blinds will not work and to develop other research techniques which are not so flawed. They must stand up and not try to kowtow to the double blind enthusiasts.
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