THE USE OF PSYCHEDELIC AGENTS WITH AUTISTIC SCHIZOPHRENIC CHILDREN
by Robert E. Mogar & Robert W. Aldrich
Psychedelic Review, No. 10, 1965, pp. 5-13
Reviewed by Mark Hoffman
"Despite their diversity and severe limitations, these seminal explorations in an extremely complex area of research seem worthy of wider reportage and more serious attention than they have hitherto received."
The authors are optimistic, but immediately point out that most research to that point had been published only in obscure journals, or hadn't been published at all, referencing the controversial nature of treating children with psychedelics - or worse, experimenting with "severely disturbed children." Mitigating a negative public reaction was the fact that these studies were only undertaken when "all known forms of treatment had been attempted without success," and that all researchers "were to some extent exploring the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs rather than their psychotomimetic properties."
"The large majority of children treated in these studies were between six and ten years of age and were completely refractory to all other forms of treatment…There was only slight indication of any differential responses or benefit as a function of age, diagnosis, duration or severity or illness."
Largely, research focused on LSD, though a few exceptions are notable including an early study where Bender used the experimental drug UML-491, but "reported no apparent differences between the action or effectiveness of the two drugs."
Dosages varied between studies, with Bender starting relatively low at 50 mcgs., where researchers like Fisher and Castile used a much wider range and sample, some up to 400 mcgs. Overall, the authors report that most investigators found 100 mcgs. optimal. Of these early studies, only Fisher and Castile, following the 'Saskatchewan technique' pioneered by Blewett and Chwelos (1959) and Hoffer (1965), specifically focused on providing a comfortable, non-clinical set and setting.
Seven independent studies are reviewed involving a total of 91 autistic schizophrenic children who had been given psychedelic drugs for therapeutic and/or experimental purposes. From this data, and accounting for the relatively small sample and the important differences in clinical procedure, dosage, and other factors, the authors point to the determinants of differential improvement rates which include: 1) "the degree of active therapist-patient interactions permitted during the drug-induced state," 2) a set and setting which offer "congenial settings offering some opportunity to experience meaningful objects and interpersonal activities," and 3) "psychedelic therapy with psychotic children seems most effective in natural, flexible settings that are reasonably free of artificiality, experimental restrictions on spontaneous behavior, and mechanically administered procedures. Conversely, barren medical or laboratory environments seem clearly anti-therapeutic."
The authors conclude with comments on the general results of the psychedelic-therapeutic method for these children, which we give you in their own words:
"Since mutism is a cardinal symptom of autistic children and probably the major impediment to successful therapy, it is worth emphasizing that at least temporary speech improvement has been one of the most frequently reported effects of LSD in the work conducted thus far. Other communalities include an elevated mood, less compulsive ritualistic behavior, and increased interaction with others."
"Differences in orientation, patient attributes, drug regime, setting, treatment technique, research design, etc. seem to affect the frequency and stability of favorable outcomes… The types of improvement, when and if they occur, appear to be essentially the same in each study."
"The collective work reviewed here… argues strongly for more extensive
and systematic applications of psychedelic drugs in the treatment of autistic
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