The Treatment of Frigidity with LSD and Ritalin
Thomas M. Ling and John Buckman
Psychedelic Rev. 1: 450-458, 1966
Article reviewed by Jeff Willey
The ability to respond sexually depends on a complex interplay between endocrine, somatosensory and psychological factors. "Frigidity" is a broad term referring to the inability of the female to enjoy sexual love to its fullest capacity. It can manifest as a refusal to have intercourse, passivity, or lack of vaginal orgasm. Some view this term as derogatory and prefer to use other designations such as "arousal dysfunction". This condition predominantly arises from psychological factors such as fear, guilt, depression, feelings of inferiority, lack of foreplay, sexual-cultural conflict, disease or conflict with one's mate. Unpleasant childhood or adolescent sexual experiences are often involved. Such experiences may adversely impact sexual and emotional maturity into adulthood and potentially lead to frigidity.
A variety of methods have been used to treat frigidity, ranging from group or individual desensitization to hormonal treatment. Psychiatric treatment which aims to release early unpleasant experiences from the psyche in order to overcome the psychological causes of frigidity is time-consuming and often met with limited success. Ling and Buckman report here on the use of LSD to aid treatment by accelerating the release of suppressed unconscious material. According to the authors, LSD treatment enables the patient to perceive and understand unconscious and recovered childhood memories and fantasies, leading to greater maturity and self-understanding.
Ling and Buckman present a case study involving a 33 year old woman suffering from frigidity who was married with two young children. She had intercourse only out of a sense of marital duty and displayed a fear of sex and a lack of desire since the time of marriage. Her husband was fully potent and she was physically normal, but she had not responded to prior psychiatric treatment. The progress of six sessions with combined LSD and Ritalin treatment over the course of several months is reported. The LSD dosage used at each session ranged from 50 - 80 µg, administered intramuscularly. Intravenous Ritalin was used to calm anxiety. Treatment sessions took place in a quiet darkened room and typically lasted 4 hours. In contrast to these methods, the useful handbook for therapeutic LSD use by Blewett and Chwelos (1959) recommends a longer session, upwards of 12 hours in line with the length of time that an LSD experience typically lasts, as well as the use of stimuli such as music, pictures, etc. They also recommend that LSD be administered alone and not in combination with other drugs so that the subject may confront head-on the revelations brought on by LSD without interference.
In response to LSD, the patient in the presented case study experienced a range of responses including misery, fear and love, and it appears that the patient achieved true psychedelic reactions as outlined by Blewett and Chwelos, as her accounts show that she had no doubt as to the to the reality and usefulness of her experiences during the treatment sessions. Overall the patient appeared to be fully open to self-examination and the potential benefits of treatment, and she readily embraced the opportunity to gain insight into her condition.
Of particular interest was the gradual recovery of childhood experiences into the conscious mind that was achieved over the course of these sessions. Among these recovered memories the patient remembered idolizing her father, but these feelings turned to disappointment at his rejection of her. During the initial sessions the patient also experienced a "wonderful outpouring of love and a zest for life" which she never had before, and a more positive view of sex. Her enjoyment of sexual intimacy improved after two treatment sessions, but was not yet at an optimal level. Treatment continued, and in further sessions the patient strived to remember the first awareness of her own sexuality. She remembered as a baby that her father had been looking at her genitalia but, against her expectations, not in an approving manner, and this was a blow to her self-esteem. She also remembered competing with her mother for her father's affections and failing. The patient felt a sense of release following these realizations.
Treatment was discontinued for some time following the third session. The patient and her husband reported that she was now a happier person and more sexually responsive. However she still felt considerable fear of her own sexuality and LSD treatment was resumed after 6 weeks. In these later sessions, the patient recovered vague memories of being sexually assaulted while staying with her uncle and aunt, including feelings of sexual excitement, of being held down, and feelings of disgust after the experience. She remembered that there had been a quarrel between her father and uncle at that time, and that she was never allowed to stay with her uncle again. Further clarity of this episode was required, and in the final session she remembered more clearly that as a young girl she had enjoyed her uncle's fondling, but this ended abruptly when he tried to rape her. Following this session the patient reported a sense of tranquility, and six weeks later she reported that she had experienced her first intercourse with full orgasm. Her sexual life was greatly improved and her marriage was much better, so treatment was halted. Six months later she reported that she had lost all of her sexual inhibitions and was free of the guilt that had previously plagued her. Also, she felt a greater sense of confidence and maturity. Further treatment was considered unnecessary by both psychiatrist and patient.
According to Ling and Buckman, LSD treatment allowed the patient to re-experience the feelings of sexual excitement, rejection and guilt associated with her incestuous feelings and possible assault. She improved by realizing that early in her life, sex had become associated with fear, violence and parental disapproval. Importantly, once this association was realized, the patient was able to overcome the psychological causes of her physiologically expressed disturbance. This case study appears to confirm the statement by Blewett and Chwelos that "the most valuable knowledge which the subject may attain in the [LSD] experience is the realization that his feelings are very largely under his own control". Ling and Buckman also report that the use of LSD and Ritalin along with appropriate psychotherapy had cleared up frigidity in sixteen other selected cases. This article provides evidence that LSD may be an effective treatment for psychologically-based sexual dysfunction.
Blewett, D.B. and Chwelos, N. 1959. Handbook for the Therapeutic Use of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-25: Individual and Group Procedures. 2002 version http://www.erowid.org/psychoactives/guides/handbook_lsd25.shtml
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