"The Use of Lysergic Acid in Individual Psychotherapy"
By T. M. Ling, M.D., and J. Buckman.
Proceedings of the Royal Study of Medicine 53, 927-929 (1960)
Review by Adrian Pocobelli
This article examines a way of reducing the lengthy amount of time that psychotherapy generally requires. Based on the results of the study, the researchers concluded certain patients could achieve successful results in a shorter time frame using Lysergic Acid (LSD), offering a speedier alternative to previous psychotherapeutic techniques. The study involved 50 persons with psychiatric problems, who continued to work. Age ranged from 18 to 60 years old. According to their knowledge and experience, the researchers believed that the LSD treatment was safe in "suitable cases."
When selecting the cases to be included in the study, the researchers isolated "motivation" as the most important factor in determining whether a patient was suitable for the treatment. They also thought "a certain amount of intelligence was necessary to be able to understand not only the meaning of the material, but also the interpretations that may arise." Additionally, the researchers believed that a patient "who has made a reasonable adjustment in life as regards marriage and occupation carries a better treatment prognosis that one who has been a relative failure." Based upon their previous experience, the researchers were careful to select patients who they believed would benefit from the study, as they were concerned LSD treatment in cases such as psychotics and "schizoid personalities," could have a negative impact, "precipitating an acute schizophrenic illness" or "a profound depression." They also stated that the risk of suicide had to be considered in such cases. Patients suffering from a poor motivation, a negative attitude, or "at the strong request of a relative" were also thought to be at risk of becoming worse. On the other hand, LSD was deemed "particularly suitable" for "anxiety states with accompanying tension," as well as "neurotic depressives … if the personality is adequate." The chosen patients suffered from tension (26), anxiety (13), sexual anomalies (4), character disorders (3), obsessional thinking (1), conversion hysteria (2), and psychopathia (1).
One night a week, patients attended a "psychiatric night hospital" where they were given individual psychotherapy aided by LSD and metamphetamine. In the first session, patients were injected intramuscularly with 40 mcg of LSD together with 5-10 mg of Methedrine, a metamphetamine which "potentiates action of LSD and lessens anxiety." Anxious patients were given a smaller dose of 25 mcg, while resistant patients were given up to 200 mcg. Each subsequent week, the dosage was increased by 20 mcg until the average dose reached 100 mcg of LSD and 15 mg of Methedrine. After four to six hours, the patients were given 50 mg of Melleril or Largactil "by mouth," or intramuscularly in cases with a very marked LSD effect, bringing the treatment to an end. The patients had separate interviews on a weekly basis and could reach their therapist by phone. After eight weeks, the treatments would break for a month.
The researchers noted several reactions during the treatments such as a regression into childhood, a reliving of repressed experiences, a disorganized sense of time, and sometimes crying, laughing or trembling. The patient's state of mind is generalized as having several distinct but related characteristics:
He does not lose consciousness or contact with reality but the access to his own unconscious is facilitated … He can become completely absorbed by phenomena at the deeper psychic levels but can anytime 'pull himself together' and discuss his experience with remarkable insight … Primitive impulses and wishes are often expressed through imagery, fantasy, identification and symbolization rather than by acting out. The patient gains insight not only into his real emotions and impulses but also into his own defenses against their recognition.
According to the researchers, the patient remained oriented for person, place and time throughout the experience.
Six months after the completion of the treatment, results showed that 7 recovered, 8 greatly improved, 23 moderately improved, 11 did not improve, and 1 was worse. No untoward after effects occurred after LSD. The patient went to work "but was advised not to drive a car until mid-day." The researchers found that LSD had been particularly beneficial to patients suffering from migraines, citing a case of one woman, aged 51, complaining of migraine since the age of 9 and general tension since adolescence. Under the influence of LSD, she relived her traumatic childhood experience which provoked her first attack of migraine. "Now, 8 months since her last treatment, she feels free from tension and has no more attacks of migraine." The treatment also helped patients conquer psychosexual difficulties such as dyspareunia, ejaculatio praecox and frigidity. Success had also been found in the treatment of married couples who were treated in the same room at the same time.
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